MURPHY – David Gentry’s name carries a lot of weight in the NCHSAA.
How could it not?
Gentry has won six state championships at Murphy and 74 more football games (375 total) than any other coach in Western North Carolina history.
The Shrine Bowl has tapped Gentry to be North Carolina’s 2016 head coach for the annual December all-star game in Spartanburg, S.C.
Outside of football, Gentry is a member of the NCHSAA Board of Directors.
And that is key here. Because Gentry is using his power to suggest that the board takes some kind of action when it comes to nontraditional schools in the state association. Particularly when it comes to the smallest classification (1-A).
The next meeting for the NCHSAA Board of Directors is May 3-4 in Chapel Hill.
Gentry outlined his beliefs in a letter to fellow board members and has shared it with the Citizen-Times (see below).
“I can’t go down there for these meetings and not voice my opinion,” Gentry said.
“(Nontraditional schools) is an issue that a lot of people in the Smoky Mountain Conference and around the state are concerned about.”
In his letter, Gentry proposes that a separate 1-A state playoff division be created for charter, magnet and private schools (there are about 34 such schools in NCHSAA 1-A at the moment, Gentry noted). The sports that Gentry said he feels need immediate attention are baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, track and volleyball.
Gentry said that football is fine for now, but its postseason system might need tweaking in the future, too.
In his letter, Gentry cites a March 2 article written by J.J. Smith of the Cartaret County News-Times.
It was filled with data that showed the recent success that nontraditional schools have enjoyed in NCHSAA competition. And its central argument was that nontraditional schools in large metropolitan cities like Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh and Winston-Salem have a distinct advantage over 1-A schools which can only draw from rural communities.
The article was timed around regional-championship competition in 1-A basketball – three of the state’s four regional champs were nontraditional schools.
“Overall, if fair play and equity are going to be listed among the core values of the NCHSAA, it’s time we model that behavior by leveling the playing field,” Gentry wrote.
Buncombe County Schools Superintendent Tony Baldwin is also part of the NCHSAA Board of Directors.
Smith’s article can be found here.
And here is the full text (unedited) of Gentry’s letter:
To Whom it May Concern:
Many people outside of day-to-day interaction with North Carolina 1A high school sports might have found J.J. Smith’s March 2nd article (entitled “Nontraditional schools dominate basketball …”) to be a bit of an eye-opener. However, I guarantee you that not many 1A coaches, athletic directors, or administrators were among those shocked by what Smith had uncovered. We already knew. Smith merely confirmed it by compiling the data and by publishing his findings.
The recent dominance of 1A nontraditional schools has been unprecedented in Wells Fargo cup and sports’ state championships. In fact, not a single traditional public 1A school has even finished in the top two of Wells Fargo cup standings in the past five years, and last year, the closest one got was fifth place (Elkin). As Smith reveals, many sports’ state championships (like girls’ basketball) have been essentially rendered off-limits to the ranks of traditional schools.
This has come about for several reasons. The most important and obvious one is that nontraditional schools draw from such a larger population than traditional ones, and yet are still competing as though they are on equal planes because they have comparable ADMs. A traditional school may compete from a base of about 400 students to choose from, because frankly that’s how many high-school-aged people there are in a small town like Elkin; adversely, a nontraditional school in Winston Salem, Greensboro, Charlotte or Raleigh has tens of thousands of students in their proximity from which to lure the best of the best, with the promise of competing with the deck stacked heavily in their favor.
One proposed solution to the above dilemma is a multiplier system, but even at 1.5x or 2x nontraditional school multipliers in place, this does not begin to scratch the surface of the 400 (high school students in Elkin) to 12,000 (high school students in Winston Salem…the smallest of the cities mentioned) ratio, and the nontraditional school domination of NC 1A sports will likely continue.
Therefore, it is my belief that the only viable solution is to split 1A into traditional and nontraditional state championships. Our conference, the Smoky Mountain Conference, is unanimously in favor of such a split; and I have a feeling that almost all conferences that are made up of traditional schools are similarly in favor. The sports that should be considered for the split are volleyball, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls track & field, golf, baseball and softball. Currently, there are about thirty-four 1A nontraditional schools in the state, and this is plenty from which to build competitive brackets in these sports.
The question of football’s inclusion in the split is bound to come to discussion. In my opinion, at the current time, football’s division into 1A and 1AA is doing a good enough job of fostering equity in that sport; for instance, since 2010, there have been eight different state champions in 1A/AA. Also, there are currently not enough nontraditional 1A football-playing schools to break off into their own competitive state championship brackets. I am, however, in favor of revisiting this concept once enough nontraditional schools begin football programs.
Overall, if fair play and equity are going to be listed among the core values of the NCHSAA, it’s time we model that behavior by leveling the playing field.
David R. Gentry
Board of Directors, NCHSAA
Athletic Director and Football Coach, Murphy High School