Just before I moved from Lumberton, N.C., to Tupelo in 2002, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association announced a change in its classification system concerning football.
It made me want to throw up.
What the NCHSAA did was double the number of state champions. For example, a Class 4A team – that's the highest classification in that state – could play an entire season, win all its playoff games É and essentially have to share the title.
Because there is a 4A champ, and a 4AA champ. A 3A champ, and a 3AA champ, etc. But only for football.
Light state champs. Wow, such a special feat.
I keep reminding myself of that because of what the MHSAA has done. It could be worse than six classes, right?
We don't know the details yet – we will on Friday – but the folks in Clinton have decided to add a Class 6A. I don't know if we're trying to keep up with Alabama and Arkansas, but no matter the rationale, it's a bad idea.
On the surface, it looks great. So does universal healthcare.
Whether anyone will admit it or not, this is being done for the sake of football, nothing else. Because football is where the enrollment differential is perceived to have the greatest impact.
This six-class system is supposed to help close those gaps. The proposal I believe they approved would have 44 teams in each class, except for 1A, with 42. That would close the gap significantly – except in 6A, where it would grow.
Well, let's look at those gaps, for football schools only.
According to enrollment numbers used for the last re-classification (2007), Harrison Central is the state's largest football-playing school with 2,481 students; Hancock, the smallest in 5A, has 1,104. That's a difference of 1,377.
The new Class 6A would have an even larger gap.
OK, let's look at 4A: Vicksburg – 1,088; Yazoo County – 556. Difference: 532.
In 3A: Amory – 554; Velma Jackson – 370. Difference: 184.
Stay with me, people.
Now for 2A: Water Valley – 369; Hamilton – 219. Difference: 150.
Finally, 1A: Calhoun City – 217; Dexter – 80. Difference: 137.
Honestly, the only gap that bothers me is the one in 4A. But not that much. Vicksburg didn't exactly tear it up last fall after dropping from 5A (6-5, second round of the playoffs).
Of the four next largest schools below the Gators, two had losing seasons. Picayune and Wayne County did mighty well, but the latter does well regardless. Wayne County was 5A in 2002 – and won the state. By beating South Panola. Last team to do that.
When are people going to realize that size doesn't matter? If it did, Harrison Central wouldn't stink at football. And George County – with seven more students than Hancock – wouldn't have reached last season's 5A state title game and lost to South Panola by only a touchdown.
If size mattered, Laurel (697 students) wouldn't have won in 4A.
Now, yes, Louisville did roll to the 3A crown after dropping from 4A. Exactly one team even challenged the Wildcats in the playoffs – Ripley, which sits right in the middle of 3A numbers-wise. Overall, 3A was weak.
There are lots of things the MHSAA needs to change – its football and basketball championship venues; its Web site; its inconsistent approach to transfers – but this was just fine.
I guess the change isn't too bad. I don't feel like throwing up.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Daily Journal assistant sports editor. He blogs about high school sports on djournal.com's Blog Center, or go to bradlocke.wordpress.com.