By Rob Patrick
As it turns out, the Bryant High School athletes will continue to compete in the Central Conference after this year.
As part of the usual two-year cycle re-alignment by the Arkansas Activities Association, Bryant had been assigned to the South Conference in a move that mixed Class 7A and Class 6A schools in hopes of saving travel costs.
Of course, even that re-alignment saved some teams travel while increasing others so there was a lot of dissatisfaction expressed about the plan. As it turned out, the schools that would most benefit from the cut-down in travel were those in Little Rock (Hall and Parkview, moving from the East to the Central, and Fair, moving from the South to the Central).[more]
In addition, the mix of the classifications meant that teams in the same conference would not play in the same State playoffs or tournaments.
For example, Bryant would’ve been the only 7A school in the South with seven Class 6A schools. The East and the Central were arranged as mixed conferences as well with only the West going unchanged.
Searcy High School, a Class 6A member of the East Conference, appealed the decision which would've moved North Little Rock and Cabot into the East.
“It was appealed to the executive committee of the AAA to go out to a vote,” said Bryant athletic director Tom Farmer. “The executive committee granted that appeal and it went out to a vote of the 32 schools, the 16 7A schools and the 16 6A schools to see if enough would accept the proposal.
“The proposal was basically to leave the Central conference as is,” he explained, adding that the East and South would also remain unchanged.
There will still be mixed conferences but only two instead of three.
“The East conference would have two 7A schools, West Memphis and (Little Rock) Hall,” Farmer said. “The Central Conference would have two 6A schools, Van Buren and Russellville.
“It was a 21-9 vote until Tuesday (Oct. 13) when Springdale and Texarkana both sent in ‘Yes’ votes which made it 23-9, which gave it enough to pass,” Farmer related. “It had to have 22 votes to pass.”
The Central Conference will continue to include Conway, North Little Rock, Cabot, Little Rock Central, Little Rock Catholic/Mount St. Mary’s as Class 7A schools with Van Buren and Russellville as Class 6A schools.
At the end of a season in whatever sport, Van Buren and Russellville will compete with other 6A schools while West Memphis and Little Rock Hall will compete against 7A teams.
The problem remains about how the AAA will seed post-season play with those four team’s records coming against teams not in their classification.
“It’s yet to be decided exactly how many teams will go to State,” Farmer said. “There has been a proposal for a power-rating system. It’s pretty complicated and, at the same time, it makes schools play better teams. But none of that has been finalized.”
Why didn’t West Memphis and Hall join the Central to make it 7A league? Because Russellville and Van Buren, both from the western part of the state would have to be placed in the 6A East or the 6A South, making travel for those two schools extensive (for instance, trips to El Dorado in the South or Jonesboro in the East).
There was a proposal to put all 32 teams back in the same classification, as was the case up until a few years ago, but the 6A schools, not surprisingly, voted that down.
Stay tuned, however, because as the decision looms about how to set up post-season play, more changes could come under consideration.