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NC High School Athletic Association takes baby steps for conference realignment

How will Cumberland be impacted?

Vernon Aldridge is the executive director of the North Carolina Athletic Directors Association and a former Cumberland County Schools student activities director. Aldridge was a previous member of the NCHSAA realignment committee.
Vernon Aldridge is the executive director of the North Carolina Athletic Directors Association and a former Cumberland County Schools student activities director. Aldridge was a previous member of the NCHSAA realignment committee.
Every four years, the N.C. High School Athletic Association takes on the huge challenge of aligning its member schools into conferences.
It’s a process that is monumental for the people involved and at the end of the day always leaves some schools feeling shortchanged or overlooked.
Earlier this month, the process for the latest realignment took its first baby steps, with a more detailed report to be given to the NCHSAA Board of Directors at its winter meeting later this month.
By all accounts, this could be the most difficult realignment the NCHSAA has ever tackled. This committee is facing the challenge of new rules that will limit the number of schools per classification to a maximum of 64.
That means, with 432 schools currently in the association, at least seven classifications will be needed.
But that’s not the only issue. Whatever the NCHSAA decides, there’s a good chance it will be micromanaged by the N.C. General Assembly, which has been poking its nose in association business for the past few years and already enacted legislation that has dramatically altered the way the NCHSAA oversees high school sports.
Vernon Aldridge, executive director of the North Carolina Athletic Directors Association and former Cumberland County Schools student activities director as well as a previous member of the realignment committee, has a special appreciation of what the current committee faces.
“Are you going to have seven classes in every sport, or less in some sports that don’t have as much participation as others?’’ he said. “Are you even going to have conferences?’’
Aldridge said the last time the realignment committee met, they were considering more classes, but the bylaw that now allows it didn’t pass a vote of the member schools the first time around.
The new committee may consider dramatic changes, like scrapping conferences in favor of a district or regional alignment, that could be altered from sport to sport depending on how many schools play each sport.
This past week, the NCHSAA announced the new average daily membership or enrollment for all Cumberland County Schools. They range from Jack Britt at 2,015 to Douglas Byrd at 1,133.
For comparison, the largest school in the state is Ardrey Kell from Mecklenburg County with 3,671.
If the NCHSAA goes to seven classes, Aldridge said he could see Cumberland County having schools spread across classifications from 3-A up to 7-A.
You could also see a single school in multiple classifications if the NCHSAA decides to fine tune things sport by sport based on participation.
One thing Aldridge doesn’t see going away in the new alignment is split conferences, where schools of different classification are paired together in the same league.
This is mainly done because of travel. It is often hard to pair enough schools of the same class in one league without having extensive travel.
There was a time when the old Fayetteville City Schools Reid Ross, E.E. Smith and Terry Sanford were in the same league with Wadesboro Bowman, now Anson County. And Wilmington Hoggard was once in the same conference with Cumberland County Schools.
Splits, like the current United 8 and All American Conference lineups, keep schools closer together and cut down on travel.
Aldridge said he hopes the General Assembly will stay out of the realignment process and let the committee do its job, which is difficult enough without oversight from legislators who know nothing about how the process works.
“The group that is working on this is the best group to do it, the member schools, the athletic directors, superintendents and principals,’’ he said. “They have skin in the game.’’
Earl’s Pearls
Due to early deadlines for next week’s copy because of the Thanksgiving holiday, we’ll delay resuming Athletes of the Week for another week. Please plan to start submitting nominations beginning with the week of Monday, Nov. 27. 
All performances from the start of the fall sports season until Tuesday, Nov. 28, will be eligible for nomination that week. As usual, you can nominate an athlete for a single performance or for multiple performances during the nominating period.
This week’s picks
That loud cry you heard last Friday night was my expression of delight at a perfect record for the second round of the state playoffs. I was 3-0 in the games involving Cumberland County teams last week.
That improved the record for the year to 63-20, 75.9 percent.
Now we’re down to just two competitors in tonight’s third round. Let’s see if we can stay on a roll:
  • Wilson Fike at Seventy-First: I can tell in conversations with Coach Duran McLaurin and his players that the memory of last year’s near-miss at a shot at a state championship are much on their minds and they are determined to avoid the same fate this year.
Fike, like Seventy-First, has a rich football tradition, but the Falcons have gotten comfortable playing at Loyd E. Auman Athletic Field and I like their chances to keep playing … Seventy-First 28, Wilson Fike 21.
  • Terry Sanford at Southern Alamance: The Bulldogs are the highest seeded team left in any bracket of the state playoffs, and they wear that No. 27 seed with pride as they’ve overcome a lot of bumps and bruises to make it this far.
But I’m afraid Friday is going to be a mountain they may not be able to climb. Southern appears to be a big, solid team, the kind the Bulldogs have problems with. I’m hoping for the best, but it’s going to be a struggle … Southern Alamance 22, Terry Sanford 8.
Follow Earl Vaughan Jr. on X (Twitter) @EarlVaughanJr.

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Fayetteville, Cumberland County, NCHSAA, high school athletic association