Even though the 2016-17 school year is just about to get underway, it’s never too early to look ahead to the future in high school sports as the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) Board of Directors recently made several new rule changes and revisions at their annual meeting. Among one of the highly debated issues to have an influence on athletic programs within the local schools was the conference realignment process, which will take effect for 2017-2021.
During the last 12 months, a committee met several times with the goal of aligning member schools into conferences of like sizes and close geographic proximity, with minimizing travel as a primary consideration.
While the most recent re-alignment placed the four Wilmington schools with West Brunswick, South Brunswick and Topsail inside the Mideastern Conference, the NCHSAA Board of Directors gave final approval to the newest proposal. It keeps those seven schools in the same league, while adding North Brunswick to the division, creating an eight-team conference.
North Carolina high schools are also divided into four classifications based on the number of students, with Class 1A being the smallest and Class 4A the largest.
North Brunswick will move up from the 2A to 3A classification. Its travel time will also be significantly decreased from its current situation, with North Brunswick currently going as far as Croatan, some 90 miles away. Athletic teams from Leland will now have a much more manageable travel schedule, with its furthest league opponent located in Hampstead.
The biggest surprise from the process was for New Hanover High School. Under the new realignment, New Hanover will now compete as a 3A school, dropping down a classification from its current 4A status.
Enrollment figures show New Hanover having the smallest student body of any Wilmington school, but the long-time 4A member will now become the largest among 3A schools, with an Average Daily Membership (ADM) of 1,643. ADM measures the numbers of children enrolled to attend a specific district throughout the year.
The 3A class includes schools with enrollment between 1,031 and 1,643. Based on current figures, North Brunswick would be the 10th smallest 3A school in the state. South Brunswick also remains towards the lower end of the classification, while West Brunswick is one of the larger 3A schools (1,387 ADM).
The four other Mideastern schools won’t change classifications. Topsail (1,286) will remain in 3A, while Hoggard (1,799), Ashley (1,915) and Laney (2,244) remain in 4A.