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State group passes proposal to change classification format of high school sports

The landscape of Arkansas high school athletics will change in the fall of 2018.

A proposal was passed Monday at the Arkansas Activities Association's governing body annual meeting at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock that will change the classification format in all sports other than football. It will be effective for the 2018-2020 classification cycle.

At a glance

• The Arkansas Activities Association’s classification proposal for the 2018-2020 cycle passed Monday and will reclassify all sports except football:

BASKETBALL, BASEBALL, SOFTBALL, GOLF, TRACK & FIELD

CLASS 6A Top 16 schools

CLASS 5A Next 32 schools

CLASS 4A Next 48 schools

CLASS 3A, 2A, 1A Take remaining schools and divide by three

CROSS COUNTRY, VOLLEYBALL, TENNIS, ALL-GIRL CHEERLEADING

*Classes 6A, 5A, 4A, 3A and 2A

SOCCER, BOWLING

*Classes 6A, 5A, 4A and 3A

SWIMMING & DIVING, WRESTLING

*Classes 6A, 5A, 4A

DANCE

*Classes 6A, 5A, 4A, 3A

CO-ED CHEERLEADING, GAME DAY CHEERLEADING

*Two classifications

*Enrollment ranges to be determined

Proposal No. 1 Amends ejection penalty and allows schools to appeal ejections through the AAA’s executive director. PASSED 298-7

Proposal No. 2 Prohibits football players from playing more than five quarters per calendar day. PASSED 290-11

Proposal No. 3 Allows students enrolled in a school of innovation or a district charter conversion school to participate in extracurricular activities at another school in the district if the school the student is enrolled in does not offer that extracurricular activity. Schools of innovation or district charter conversion schools will also participate in the same classification as the highest classified school in the district. PASSED 277-28

Proposal No. 4* Schools will observe a three-day “Christmas dead period” between Dec. 23-27 each year. During those three days, coaches will be prohibited from engaging in any activity involving student-athletes, and school athletic facilities will be closed to student-athletes during this time. PASSED 274-32

Proposal No. 5 Defines the definition of amateurism. Students that violate the amateur rule in any AAA-sponsored sport could lose their eligibility for up to 365 days. PASSED 293-2

Propsal No. 6 Limits schools to eight competition days per team during the summer and limits athletes to eight competition days per sport during the summer break. This includes but is not limited to camps, 7-on-7 competitions, tournaments, among other events. PASSED 210-94

Proposal No. 7* Allows high school tennis seasons to begin and end two weeks earlier. PASSED 201-2

  • will be effective beginning with the 2018-19 school year. All other proposals are effective immediately.

The vote on the proposal did not come without controversy.

AAA President John Ciesla of Greenwood originally announced the proposal -- one of nine being voted on Monday -- failed, with the total being 141 for and 68 against. There was confusion over the discrepancy between the number of voters checked in, which was 216, and the number of votes cast, which was 209.

According to Article X, Section 2 of the AAA handbook, a proposal will be adopted with a two-thirds majority of those voting.

The original vote's percentage was calculated with 216 -- not the 209 that actually voted -- and was 65.2 percent.

AAA Executive Director Lance Taylor asked former Vilonia athletic director Ed Sellers, whose school voted against the proposal, to help recount the votes. Once the recount was finished, Ciesla announced the proposal passed with the same 141-68 total. This time, it was 67.4 percent with the 209 administrators voting.

"We made a mistake," Taylor said. "We caught it. We recounted our count. They agreed it was correct."

The proposal for basketball, baseball, softball, golf and track will place the top 16 schools by enrollment in Class 6A, or the state's top 16 football schools that are currently in Class 7A. The next 32 schools will be in Class 5A, followed by the next 48 schools in Class 4A. Then, the remaining schools will be divided in thirds and placed in Class 3A, 2A and 1A, respectively.

Cross country, volleyball, tennis and all-girls cheerleading will be broken into five classifications -- Classes 6A, 5A, 4A, 3A and 2A. Soccer and bowling will be Classes 6A, 5A, 4A and 3A.

Wrestling, swimming and diving will have three classifications: Classes 6A, 5A and 4A.

Dance will include Classes 6A, 5A, 4A and 3A. Co-ed cheerleading and game day cheerleading each will have two classifications.

The AAA went with a blended conference setup for the 2016-2018 classification cycle to help with travel and expenditures. The blended conferences are used for boys and girls basketball, baseball, softball, boys and girls soccer and volleyball, but not in football.

But there have been concerns with the blended conferences, including increased travel, decreased gates, difficulties seeding district tournaments, and selecting all-conference and all-state teams.

Vilonia Principal Matt Sewell spoke against the proposal before it was voted on Monday.

"I hate the blend, just like all of you," Sewell said. "But I hate proposal nine more, because I believe it's not equitable for our kids. It's not consistent for our schools and competition.

"It doesn't resolve the travel issue, which has and always will be an issue. I'd rather have two more years of the blend and discuss better options than to have this thing shoved down my throat."

Taylor said the conference assignments will be finalized over the next couple of months, with travel as one of the main topics.

"We're always trying to look at travel and listen to the schools," Taylor said. "We can't please everyone, but we're going to do what's right."

AAA associate executive director Steve Roberts presented the classification proposal at the association's summer workshop meeting in June. It was approved with a "do pass" motion at the workshop while another classification proposal brought to the AAA from Activity District 2 -- made up of schools from north central Arkansas -- received a "do not pass" motion. The activity district's proposal failed Monday at the governing body, with a vote of 183 against and 30 for.

Arkansas will join several neighboring states that use different classes for different sports.

Tennessee uses six classes for football; three for basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball; and two for soccer, tennis, golf and cross country. Missouri has six classes for football; five for basketball, baseball and track and field; four for softball, soccer, volleyball, wrestling and boys golf; and two for tennis and girls golf. In Oklahoma, there's eight classes for football; seven for basketball, baseball and softball; six for track and field; four for volleyball; and three for soccer.

Another high-profile proposal presented Monday was on limiting summer competition days, which stated the purpose was to lessen the financial and physical demands of summer sports participation. The proposal, which would limit schools to eight competition days per team during the summer and limits athletes to eight competition days per sport during the summer break, passed 210-94 despite objections from the Arkansas Football Coaches Association earlier this summer. It also includes but is not limited to camps, 7-on-7 competitions, tournaments, among other events.

Sports on 08/01/2017

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