VHSL likely to get rid of conferences for fall 2017

Strasburg's Haley Bischoff drives to the basket as Rappahannock's Kayla Robey and Sarah East defend on Tuesday night in Strasburg. The VHSL is likely to get rid of conferences at a meeting on Feb. 19. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Virginia High School League is about to once again make some big changes in terms of realignment.

The executive committee will meet Feb. 19 and is expected to approve the latest realignment, which would get rid of conferences. There would be four regions in each classification, like there is now. The VHSL is currently in the third year of using conferences. The new realignment would start in fall 2017.

One of the biggest benefits of the new realignment is less travel. Many of the conferences were spread out across the state, making for long road trips.

“I think doing away with conferences will help with travel,” Stonewall Jackson Athletic Director Todd Fannin said. “They really weren’t serving an enormous purpose. I think going back to a system where you go through districts and then into regionals – I think the first thing it’s going to do is open it back up to get district tournaments again.”

Fannin said he expects most districts to go back to having district tournaments. Fannin said things are still up in the air as far as if districts will have an impact on the regions.

Regional play could be the start of the postseason if the realignment is approved. There could be an all-in for regionals, meaning every team would make regionals.

Sherando Athletic Director Jason Barbe said he likes the idea of everyone being in regionals, and that be the start of the postseason.

“Everybody makes the playoffs, so it doesn’t matter what level you start, it’s accomplishing the same goal,” Barbe said. “This actually takes less time, less games and possibly going to miss less school time.”

The regions are larger than they are now, so it would take a little longer to play the regionals. There would also be two teams advancing to the state tournament in every region, and every team sport would have state quarterfinals.

The VHSL has already released models of what districts and regions would look like. The local districts would all stay the same.

The regions would look pretty familiar, too. Strasburg and Central would be in Region 2A North with 10 other teams – Buffalo Gap, Clarke County, East Rockingham, Robert E. Lee, Madison County, George Mason, Nelson County, Page County, Stuarts Draft and Wilson Memorial.

Stonewall Jackson would be in an 11-team Region 1A Mid East with Altavista, Appomattox, William Campbell, Carver College, Central-Lunenburg, Cumberland, Galileo, Luray, Rappahannock County and Riverheads.

Skyline and Warren County would be in a 15-team Region 3A Northeast, but several of the schools could move up or down a classification once the average daily membership numbers for March are released. The numbers from March will determine which schools are in which classification for the 20-17-18 and 2018-19 school years.

Sherando would be in a 17-team 4A North region, but some of the teams are expected to move to another classification.

Both Stonewall Jackson and Sherando were listed as teams possibly moving up. Fanin said that he’s sure they will stay in Group 1A, but if the county lines are redrawn that could change things as early as 2019.

Barbe said he feels like Sherando is still a 4A school.

Fanin said there is a possibility they could do a point system just like they do with football to qualify for teams for regionals instead of having every team make it to regionals.

He said he doesn’t like the all-in system used now for conferences.

“Back in the day when you had the old Region B, it was the top two from each district went and everyone else sat home,” Fannin said. “While I understand you want to get participation and it’s great to get kids exposure, part of our job in athletics is still to teach kids you have to earn what you get. I think that some of that has gone to the wayside in the new system. But I think if we get back to this regional concept we can make that happen.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com