Classifications to look different beginning in 2018

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Arkansas Activities Association (AAA) found a way to make things even more complicated at Monday's annual meeting in Little Rock when it decided to pass Proposal No. 9. Berryville will remain in Class 4A for all sports, but Eureka Springs and Green Forest will be affected. These changes will take effect in the fall of 2018 and end in the spring of 2020.

Green Forest will be moving up to Class 4A in football where the Tigers will be in the same conference with Berryville, Gentry and Pea Ridge. In baseball, softball and basketball, teams will remain in Class 3A, but when the state tournament begins, the Tigers will compete against Class 1A-3A schools. It is to be determined as to how each team advances to the regional and state tournament. One of the teams Green Forest will be competing against at the state level is Eureka Springs. The Highlanders will remain in Class 2A in all sports, but their conference will look different. In this classification cycle, Eureka Springs has played the likes of Kingston, Omaha and Alpena. In the 2018-20 classification cycle, the Highlanders will travel south to play Mountainburg, Lavaca and Danville, among others.

Eureka Springs Coach Brian Rambo has mixed feelings about the proposal getting passed.

"The regular season really won't change," Rambo said. "The travel will be different for us, but it's really not something we aren't used to. We have been traveling down south for us. But the thing is, next year I feel like we have a chance to be really good and win the conference. We will have a chance to compete, but where it will hurt us is at the state level. That won't stop us from getting to the state tournament, but at some point you are going to play a team that is much bigger than us."

The Green Forest soccer, volleyball, cross country and track programs will all be staying in Class 3A, competing against teams from similar-sized schools. Classes 1A-2A are being combined in those sports. This is something that excites soccer coach Jonathan Bryant, as the Tigers made a run to the Class 3A state tournament last year. Green Forest will no longer have to face such teams as Berryville, Dardanelle and Huntsville.

"I'm ecstatic because Green Forest soccer should be doing some pretty good things in the next year or two," Bryant said. "I'm not 100 percent sure on who will be coming to us and who will be leaving us. I'm not sure how they are going to break the conferences up. I think there will be four conferences, but I don't know who will be going where."

As an assistant coach on the football team, Bryant isn't looking forward to the change.

"The 4A is tough," Bryant said. "We are going to have to be ready to play next year."

In the end, Rambo summed it up best.

"I don't understand why the AAA is changing the format every couple of years," Rambo said. "Why don't we find a format that is fair and is something we can agree on for a couple of years and stick with it? It's not going to be perfect. It's not going to please everyone. Every year when you are changing conferences and changing classifications, it's really hard for fans to get accustomed to that. I think most importantly we need to find some consistency with this. Get to a common ground with everybody and stick with it for five, six, seven eight years because moving around every couple years makes it more difficult than it should be."

The board needed 139 votes to pass Proposal No. 9. It passed, 141-68.

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