Six classes in high school football is here to stay.
Well, it will stay at least through the 2016 season.
By a narrow 5-4 vote and despite the urging of the TSSAA administrative staff to return to five classes, the high school athletic association’s Board of Control voted Monday to remain at six postseason football classes in Division I. That ended a month-long wait after the two systems were first discussed in Murfreesboro.
“This is something that we’ve discussed and kicked it around a lot,” said Jerry Mathis, who is a Tullahoma assistant principal and a Board of Control member that represents Rutherford County. Mathis made the motion to remain in six classes. “We’ve looked at all the options. We felt like in the end that 6A — you can’t just look at your school. You’ve got to look at everybody and how it effects everybody.
“I talked to a lot of people in my area — not all, but a lot of them. Everyone of them told me we needed to stay where we are. We aren’t going to be able to function with all the traveling as much as we have to.”
Mathis added that no Rutherford County football coach ever contacted him regarding reclassification.
However, their opinion hasn’t changed. The overwhelming majority of area coaches wanted to go back to five classes mainly because of scheduling non-conference games.
The current six-system cuts back on travel for conference games for most teams in the state. However, in Rutherford County and a handful of other pockets in the state, the new system has been a thorn in coaches side when trying to schedule non-conference games.
“It doesn’t really surprise me,” Blackman coach Philip Shadowens said. “For our purposes, five is better in regard to scheduling. If you keep it at six, I’m OK with it if they do something with scheduling.
“Right now it’s almost impossible to find games.”
Blackman will have to make trips to both Signal Mountain and Bradley Central, which are in the Chattanooga area, this season.
Smyrna coach Matt Williams pointed out that teams in 7-AAA have a disadvantage in that its the only district that doesn’t have a 5A team in their Class AAA district.
“Until they even it out and make it where it’s not so hard to find non-conference games then I’m not in favor of (six classes).”
Mathis, Bolivar principal Fred Kessler, Dresden principal Chuck West, Memphis Westwood principal Ike White and Sequatchie County principal Tommy Layne all voted for six classes. Lewis County assistant principal Bryan True, Hillwood principal Steve Chauncy, Morristown West assistant principal Mike Reed and Fulton athletic director Jody Wright voted to move it to five classes.
The vote goes into effect for the 2013-14 school year and ends after the 2016-17 school year. There will be a couple of minor tweaks.
First, the number of football-playing schools in Class A will be divided to form Class 1A and 2A with an equal number of schools in each divided class. That will also apply in Class AA (3A and 4A) and Class AAA (5A and 6A). Second, the host school for the semifinals will be pre-determined by their position in the bracket, not their playoff seed. During odd years, the top team in the bracket, or Quad 1and Quad 3 participant, will host the semifinal game. During even years, the bottom team, or participant from Quad 2 and Quad 3, will host.
TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress recommended to the board to go to five classes despite the TSSAA losing about $100,00 in playoff revenue for dropping a class. Childress said he was prepared to tighten the budget if needed.
“We went through the positives and negatives as a staff regarding the two classes,” Childress said. “We thought in five classes the positives outweighed the negatives. In six classes, what the board has said that regular season is more important and keeping a system that we have to make tweaks to. In looking at five classes, you have a system that worked for 16 years and we never touched it. Everybody understood it.”
Kessler said he agreed that the decision came down to the regular season versus the postseason.
“I think it came down to a fundamental decision of what’s more important, the regular season or the playoffs,” he said. “I feel like the best teams are going to make the playoffs. I think this system is better for the regular season.”