Realignments for HS basketball, baseball, softball

We told you last week about the proposed reclassifications for high school football teams in Tennesssee that were approved this week, and will go into effect next fall and continue through spring 2023.

TSSAA also last week unveiled its proposed changes to the classifications for sports like basketball, baseball, softball and more. The major change is that, instead of three classifications for these sports (A, AA, and AAA), there will now be a AAAA classification that will encompass the larger schools in Tennessee.

Locally, here is how the proposed changes will affect are ahigh schools.

Clinton will be part of Class AAA, and will compete in District 4 against Anderson County, Halls and Scott.

Clinton boys’ basketball coach Chris Lockard commented via email Monday morning on the proposed changes this morning, saying, “It will still be a competitive district, obviously, with fewer teams, it will make it somewhat easier to prepare and to plan for district games, and it gives us the opportunity to play some teams outside our district that we typically don’t get a chance to play.

While Clinton and AC will be in Class AAA, many of their traditional District rivals have been moved into Class AAAA based upon student population. The new District 3-AAAA will be made up of Oak Ridge, Campbell County, Karns, Central, Powell and West.

You can see the complete list of the proposed District assignments on our website, as well as a press release from TSSAA explaining the process and a link to the complete realignment proposals.

(John Brice, TSSAA) Bernard Childress’ history stretches a quarter-century with the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association. Championship relocations. Playoff expansions. Public schools with private schools; vice versa.

But Childress, TSSAA’s veteran executive director, doesn’t have any basis for something quite like this: Calculating classifications based off submitted enrollment numbers amidst a global pandemic with schools throughout the state of Tennessee operating in a bevy of models, from in-classroom settings to fully virtual to hybrid models blending classroom and online learning.

The result, however, is the two-year classifications and expanding championship offerings in TSSAA’s new Class A, AA, AAA and AAAA in basketball, as well as baseball and softball. An additional class was also added in Track and Field.

View: District/Region Alignments for 2021-23

I think our schools have been looking at it for quite some time, looking at reclassification, and it is the biggest thing that we’re responsible for and that we do, is we try always to create a level playing field as much as possible,” Childress said. “There are huge gaps in enrollments in our schools. Maybe when you go from AA to AAA, just those gaps in enrollments were something that schools wanted to try to get a little bit closer together if we possibly could.

When we went to four classes, it didn’t change as much as we thought. It closed the gaps some but not near as much as what some schools would like to see. But what this does, it gives more schools a chance to compete in the regular season and advance in the postseason.”

TSSAA, as it does every two years, solicited enrollment figures in September from its member schools throughout the Volunteer State. This year, however, was like no previous time.

Closing out a year in which the TSSAA suspended the girls’ state basketball tournament while in MTSU’s Glass House the second week of March, due to COVID-19, and ultimately shelved all winter and spring championships, enrollment figures became one more obstacle.

Sure, the numbers are submitted by each respective school to the TSSAA and verified by filings with the state’s Department of Education. Still, as Childress noted, some schools literally had shifting metrics up until the evening that numbers were due to be submitted. But absent the latest data collection, schools would have entered into competition in spring 2023 with classifications still based on enrollment figures collected in fall 2016.

It was very, very tedious, but I will tell you, how our administrators and heads of schools, as well as all of the local boards of education, and public schools, really worked hard to get us the number needed and the form was remarkable,” Childress said. “They really worked hard to try to make sure they gave us the same number they submitted to the State Department of Education. In some cases, it was all the way up until the day before we released the splits that everyone felt comfortable with some local school systems’ numbers. In my years at TSSAA, this has been the most difficult time in ever getting enrollments. We feel comfortable; we talked to every school after they submitted their numbers.”

Perhaps the two main points of TSSAA’s latest enrollment numbers and classification expansion for basketball and spring team sports are these: it’s a two-year system, with the TSSAA Board of Control voting in late-July, mindful of the pandemic, to revisit these figures again in two years; Tennessee, as population density goes amongst its high schools, has a large number of schools clustered between the 400- to 1,200-student ranges, or what will be Class AA and Class AAA under the new parameters.

Without a doubt, this does give more schools an opportunity,” Childress said. “I’m sure we’re going to have some schools that advance further in the postseason than they’ve ever advanced before. We saw that most recently in soccer, when we expanded it to three classes several years ago.”

While there will be some districts with as many as seven members, most districts are being reshaped into groups of five schools with an eye on curtailing unnecessary travel – something done with both students’ safety and school costs in mind.

Anytime you expand classifications, what we are really concerned with and struggle with in our office is districts and regions and travel,” added Childress. “You want to try to minimize travel as much as possible during regular-season play. The more classes you have, the more difficult it is to do that.

But we do the best we can and hopefully when everyone reviews the plans, schools will realize we have tried to keep them in close proximity with schools in their area as much as possible.”

As noted, these alignments will take effect in the fall of 2021 and stand for two years until they are revisited again by TSSAA and its Board of Control. School leaders have an opportunity to appeal their placement to the Board of Control at its upcoming Nov. 12 meeting at the Siegel High School lecture hall.

DIVISION I

Class A, Region 1, District 1

Cloudland High School (Roan Mountain, TN)

Hampton High School (Hampton, TN)

North Greene High School (Greeneville, TN)

Unaka High School (Elizabethton, TN)

University School (Johnson City, TN)

District 2

Clinch High School (Sneedville, TN)

Cosby High School (Cosby, TN)

Hancock Co. High School (Sneedville, TN)

Washburn High School (Washburn, TN)

Region 2, District 3

Coalfield High School (Coalfield, TN)

Jellico High School (Jellico, TN)

Oliver Springs High School (Oliver Springs, TN)

Oneida High School (Oneida, TN)

Sunbright High School (Sunbright, TN)

Wartburg Central High School (Wartburg, TN)

District 4

Greenback High School (Greenback, TN)

Harriman High School (Harriman, TN)

Midway High School (Kingston, TN)

Oakdale High School (Oakdale, TN)

Rockwood High School (Rockwood, TN)

Tennessee School for the Deaf (Knoxville, TN)

Class AA Region 2, District 3

Kingston High School (Kingston, TN)

Loudon High School (Loudon, TN)

McMinn Central High School (Englewood, TN)

Meigs Co. High School (Decatur, TN)

Sweetwater High School (Sweetwater, TN)

Tellico Plains High School (Tellico Plains, TN)

Class AAA Region 2, District 3

Carter High School (Strawberry Plains, TN)

Gibbs High School (Corryton, TN)

Northview Academy (Kodak, TN)

Seymour High School (Seymour, TN)

District 4

Anderson Co. High School (Clinton, TN)

Clinton High School (Clinton, TN)

Knoxville Halls High School (Knoxville, TN)

Scott High School (Huntsville, TN)

AAAA Region 2, District 3

Campbell Co. High School (Jacksboro, TN)

Karns High School (Knoxville, TN)

Knoxville Central High School (Knoxville, TN)

Oak Ridge High School (Oak Ridge, TN)

Powell High School (Powell, TN)

West High School (Knoxville, TN)

District 4

Bearden High School (Knoxville, TN)

Farragut High School (Knoxville, TN)

Hardin Valley Academy (Knoxville, TN)

Heritage High School (Maryville, TN)

Maryville High School (Maryville, TN)

William Blount High School (Maryville, TN)

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:20 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH & WQLA. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, his mother-in-law and cats Lucius and Oliver.

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