The question in front of the TSSAA Board of Control regarding reclassification isn’t about five or six high school football classifications.
Sure, on paper it is. But in reality, it isn’t. All of that is just a number.
No, the bigger question is simply what is best for all involved in high school. Is it keeping travel reduced and managable for the large majority of teams across the state? Or, is it having a playoff system which is easy to understand and allows coaches to know immediately after the regular season is completed if they are in the playoffs and who they are playing?
Answering that isn’t easy and one that could take the next 25 days to answer before the board meets on July 12.
Look, we know what the majority of coaches in Rutherford County wants. They are in the majority (60 percent according to a survey by The Tennessean) thatwant a return to five classes. And I don’t blame them.
Rutherford County coaches are tired of spending days and weeks on completing a high school football schedule. And when they do they have a non-conference slate that includes teams from all over the state and may include surrounding states.
I get that, and see their point. The return to five classes can be seen as a benefit to the six largest schools in Rutherford County. Of course, the opening of Stewarts Creek High in 2013 will help scheduling if it opens as a varsity-level football school playing in the state’s largest class would also help in scheduling. So would a move by the TSSAA to bring one more school into 7-AAA, but that’s just a helpful suggestion.
Along with that, area coaches and others want to know exactly who they are going to be playing. The mystery and intrigue that those with the TSSAA had hoped would build excitement into the six-class era sputtered the first year of the Z-plan when the high school association’s top brass allowed playoff brackets to be announced on the air waves with multiple mistakes that had to be corrected.
Those are mistakes that are still talked about three years later.
The old five-class system was so easy to figure that everyone was a guru. The top team from one region played the fourth-place team from another. The second-place team played the third-place team. Easy to understand, right?
A strength of schedule isn’t factored in under the old five-class system. And coaches know for weeks what schools may be their potential first-round playoff opponent.
However, when the TSSAA staff passed out potential football regions for a five-class system, something became quickly evident. For a lot of schools, travel in the regular season for conference games will increase. Sure those regions could change when new enrollment figures are submitted in the fall. Plus some schools may decide to play up in class, the multiplier could be increased or decreased, some teams may leave Division II or others may join it.
But this was a starting point.
Many envisioned a five-class system like we had for the 2008 season. Sure, there were some schools that had to travel, but many thought it wasn’t too bad. But four years later there are several new schools that have been built. Some schools have gone up in size. Others have gone down.
The result is a five-class system where region lines are vastly different than the past.
In Class 5A under the proposed regions Franklin County, Warren County, Coffee County and Lincoln County all would be grouped with teams from Chattanooga and be forced to not only travel over a mountain, but in a different time zone in the regular season.
In Class 1A, MTCS would be playing with the likes of Trousdale County, Friendship Christian, Gordonsville, Clay County, Pickett County, Monterey, Watertown and Red Boiling Springs. The travel increase would be through the roof for the small Murfreesboro private school. And let’s be honest, the Cougars would be playing for fourth place most years with the likes of state powers Trousdale, Friendship and Gordonsville in the same region.
Also in 1A, current District 9-A foes Moore County and Huntland both would be sent to Chattanooga to play teams like Grace Baptist, Lookout Valley, South Pittsburg and even Copper Basin. Folks, Copper Basin High School is closer to Asheville, N.C. than it is Lynchburg, where Moore County is located.
And there are plenty of other examples.
What should the TSSAA Board of Control do? I’m not quite sure what the answer is, but the potential increase in travel is definitely a hurdle to overcome for five class proponents.
I do know this. Football coaches across the state should be careful what they wish for. They just might get it.
Tom Kreager is prep editor of The Daily News Journal. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Kreager.