Column: "The Sports Trail": Golf season -- what small schools can expect from AAA decisions

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

by David McNeal

The Arkansas Activities Association, the governing body that controls Arkansas athletics, has made a couple of bonehead decisions in the last few years, and has hooked into a really big fish this time with the realignment of school classifications.

As you read this, the Board of Directors is meeting in Little Rock to discuss recommendations from the Class AAA and AA principals, who met at the Association office on Monday to make their suggestions about realignment.

See, the population has shifted to northwest Arkansas, so the Association has had to change the conferences teams play in. Recently, they added a sixth classification so the really big schools, like Springdale, Rogers, Little Rock Central and more, can face each other.

Smaller schools will play in classifications with other schools their size. And that was the problem. Most of Arkansas' towns, and schools, fall into the AAA and AA classifications.

When the Association took the biggest schools out, it left too many schools in those two middle classifications, and again, there are larger population schools playing smaller ones.

So, the Association decided to split the AAA and AA into three classifications. Yep, that means there will be seven classifications for high school sports next year.

How did it all happen?

The Association listened to the largest schools in the state, that's how. And as usual, they got what they wanted, a cozy eight-team conference here, and a cozy eight-team conference there.

The rest of the schools? Well, they'll just have to fit in -- sorta like high school golf nowdays in the smaller schools.

Golf has always been a spring sport. Athletes in fall sports could do their thing, then go out for golf in the spring. That included football, volleyball, and cross country players.

But the bigger schools wanted those fall players in offseason programs, so golf was moved to the fall. In the big schools with a separate golf coach and a separate pool of athletes to draw from, no problem. But at schools the size of Berryville, Green Forest and Eureka Springs, it was a disaster.

Players in fall sports now have to choose -- football or golf? Volleyball or golf? Basketball or golf? That's right. Coaches at non-football schools are practicing for the start of the roundball season in October and aren't available to coach golf, just like football and volleyball coaches aren't available any more.

So what is fall golf now? About a three- or four-week program. Practices start in August, with district tournaments starting by Sept. 12. Numbers have dropped in local programs, but the big schools got what they wanted.

Now the Association is working on new classifications for the middle size schools. Will all three Carroll County high schools end up in different conferences? Will the county rivalries fade away between the three schools if they aren't playing any more?

Hopefully, all these questions will be answered when the Association announces the new alignments by October. Judging by past performance, the smaller schools won't be getting the gold mine, just the shaft.

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