By Rob Patrick
LITTLE ROCK — As a Class 6A school competing in a conference of mostly Class 7A entries, Van Buren has had[more] its disputes with the Arkansas Activities Association. It involved initially confusion over the complicated point system used to place the Pointers’ football team among those in the field for the 6A playoffs last fall. When it all shook out, the Pointers weren’t seeded as high as they thought they’d be based on what officials there understood to be the parameters of the point system.
And there was a suggestion too that Van Buren should be allowed to play in a Class 6A conference even though it would mean traveling across the state to the south (El Dorado and Texarkana) or to the East (Jonesboro and Marion).
There just aren’t many 6A teams in the Van Buren neck of the woods. At least, there weren’t.
On Friday, the AAA released the reclassification figures for the 2012-2014 cycle (based on average attendance at each school) and among those moving up into 6A are Van Buren neighbors Greenwood and Siloam Springs.
Ironically, Van Buren High School’s numbers have lifted them back into the top 16, which means a return to Class 7A.
Bryant, with an average attendance of 1,683.33, remains in the middle of the Class 7A schools as the ninth largest in the state. Bentonville, with average attendance of a whopping 2,591 remains the largest school in the state, followed by North Little Rock (2,269), Cabot (2,199.33), Springdale (2066.67), Little Rock Central (2,041.33) and Conway (2,028.33), meaning that four of the top six largest schools are in the 7A-Central with Bryant.
Fayetteville is seventh (1,859.33) followed by Springdale Har-Ber (1,818) then Bryant, which is just a few students larger than Rogers Heritage (1,642.33) and Fort Smith Southside (1,626.33).
Then come Rogers (1,560), Fort Smith Northside (1,560), West Memphis (1,326), and Van Buren. Catholic High and Mount St. Mary of Little Rock are combined for an attendance of 889, which would place it in the middle of the Class 6A pack. But, because “multipliers” are added to the attendance for private schools, Catholic/Mount remains the 16th largest school, the last to make the Class 7A cut.
Little Rock Hall, like West Memphis, currently competing as a 7A team in a mostly 6A Conference (the East) will fall back down to the 6A level as the largest of the schools in that classification (1,202.33). Russellville, which like Van Buren, currently competes in the mostly 7A-Central, remains among the 6A schools (No. 18 overall) with an attendance of 1,166.67.
In the past, Russellville has agreed to compete at the 7A level while West Memphis remained in Class 6A despite the numbers.
The entire list is attached below.
The problem of travel remains, despite the slight shake-up. With eight schools at the Class 7A level in the West, Van Buren will need to continue to play in the Central conference, which also should include West Memphis unless the leagues are once again mixed or the Russellville/West Memphis swap is renewed.
According to a recent article by Robert Yates in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, there are currently three proposed arrangements for the schools to be considered for the upcoming cycle. Currently, the top 16 schools in attendance make up Class 7A, the next 16 at Class 6A, then 32 for each of the rest of the classifications.
The proposal with the inside track is one put together by officials in Pine Bluff that would return the top classification to 32 teams (four leagues of eight teams each) in every activity other than football. Football would continue with the current 16-16-32 format.
Other proposals would return to the traditional top 32 in the largest classification in all activities; or a continuation of the top 16 in one classification with an expanded second tier of 32 schools.