Brentwood Academy coach Cody White hasn’t backed down from the possibility the defending Division II-AA state football champions may not play in the largest classification in DII next season.
Brentwood Academy and Ensworth — which have combined to win three of the past four DII-AA football titles — have enrollments that will be in the middle classification of DII, which will expand from two to three classes beginning next season.
Ensworth could join Brentwood Academy in not moving up. The reason why the schools may choose to stay in DII-AA?
There are only 10 schools with enrollments large enough to be in DII-AAA, and fielding a 10-game schedule without extensive travel would be difficult.
“The bottom line, our division that we currently play in — Division II-AA — was not done well (only 11 teams in the league), and also the assumption that us and Ensworth were going to play above our number, which is what we’ve been doing forever,” said White, who is also the school’s athletic director.
“With the hand that is being dealt to us, that’s a pretty interesting assumption. We’re significantly better off if we stay where we are when you look at travel, costs, kids being in school and having local games.”
Currently, there are 11 schools competing in Division II-AA football. Both Brentwood Academy and Ensworth have enrollments that currently would put them in Division II-A, but choose to play up in class.
Ensworth football coach and athletic director Ricky Bowers could not be reached for comment. Ensworth officials have said they haven’t decided about playing up a class.
Brentwood Academy is playing only nine regular-season games this season due to scheduling issues. Three of the Eagles’ first four opponents were from out of state.
Next year there could be as few as nine schools competing in Division II-AAA despite more private schools headed from Division I to Division II when rule changes that redefined what financial aid is to athletes go into place.
There are 10 private schools that have enrollments that put them in Division II-AAA (531 students or higher) next year. However, Knoxville Catholic officials have said they are leaning toward remaining in Division I.
“I don’t think that it’s going to be much of a change for what Division II (large-school division) looked like in the past,” Board of Control member David Meske said. “But we do not have all the information because schools have not declared if they’re going Division II.”
Meske is an assistant principal and football coach at Knoxville Webb, a Division II school. He was a strong advocate to split Division II up by enrollment instead of three equal leagues.
Division I private schools have until Oct. 14 to decide if they are going Division II and must decide by Oct. 25 if they are going to play up in classification.
White points to the Division II committee’s recommendation to divide three classes evenly as the best way to comprise the league. The TSSAA staff also recommended that proposal.
Instead, the TSSAA’s Board of Control passed set enrollments to make up the league. Schools with enrollments from 1-265 are in DII-A, 266-530 are in DII-AA and schools with larger enrollments go to DII-AAA.
“The proposal we put forth when we all met at Goodpasture this summer alleviated all that,” White said of a Division II informational meeting that took place before the Board of Control vote was held. “It had us a good equal division of teams, everyone could fill a schedule, you could establish some good local games with good crowds and not have to miss so much school.
“It just so happens that wasn’t followed, and if you look closely at it you’ll see there are a couple of guys on those committees that were curiously right under that change in the number.”
Lipscomb Academy athletic director Mike Roller, who is on the Board of Control, advocated dividing by enrollment. He said he believes the decision to set the DII-AA maximum at 530 students may help larger private schools in Division I choose Division II to compete in Class AA rather than stay where they are.
Lipscomb’s enrollment is at 519, and it would be the largest private school in Division II-AA if it chooses to leave Division I. Roller said the school has not yet made that decision.
Knoxville Webb’s enrollment of 449 would have put it on the cusp of Division II-AAA had DII been divided evenly depending on how many Division I private schools changed leagues.
Reach Tom Kreager at 615-259-8089 and on Twitter @Kreager.
Contributing: Michael Murphy, 615-259-8262; Chris Thomas, Knoxville News Sentinel
How Division II football could look in 2017
Division I private schools have until Oct. 14 to decide if they will go to Division II.
DIVISION II-AAA (Enrollments of 531 and more) — 10
Father Ryan, 912; Christian Brothers, 888; St. Benedict, 763; Baylor, 721; McCallie, 658; Knox Catholic 619*; Briarcrest, 573; Pope John Paul II, 556; MBA, 512**; MUS, 437**
DIVISION II-AA (266-530) – 21
Lipscomb Acad., 518*; Brentwood Acad., 497; Ensworth, 463; Chatt Chr., 458***; CPA, 449*; Knox Webb, 449; Notre Dame, 419*; CAK, 400***; St. George’s, 389; Evangelical, 365; Lausanne, 365; BGA, 364; Harding Acad., 327; Knox Grace, 316***; USJ, 312; Goodpasture, 311*; FACS, 305; Northpoint Chr., 297; Boyd-Buchanan, 292***; Silverdale, 279***; FRA, 266
DIVISION II-A (1-265) – 17
Trinity, 250*; Jackson Chr., 236***; MTCS, 235*; Davidson Acad., 223; Nashville Chr., 213*; Friendship Chr., 211; DCA, 209; Fayette Acad., 205; Tipton-Rosemark, 197; Concord Chr., 197***; Franklin Grace Chr., 180*; King’s Acad., 179; Mt. Juliet Chr., 162 ; Ezell-Harding, 154; Chatt Grace, 135***; Zion Chr., 127; Rossville Chr., 117
*Current Division I school that hasn’t announced plans.
**Enrollments will be doubled due to being an all-boys school.
***Current Division I school that has announced it plans to go to Division II.
(Clarksville Academy and Columbia Academy have announced they are remaining in Division I.)