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NCHSAA realignment proposal favors regionally-based conferences and split-classification conferences

You had to know the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s proposal for conference realignment from 2021 to 2025 would have some changes.

But that reverberation you felt Thursday morning across the state was that the NCHSAA’s regionally-based proposal will lead to major overhauls of many conferences, especially in this area.

Not only were five schools from Gaston and Lincoln counties changing classifications but split classification leagues were formed as the NCHSAA appears determined to keep counties or adjoining counties in conferences as much as possible.

Locally, only the Big South 3A Conference – called 3A West Conference 50 in the realignment proposal – will be largely unchanged.

Ashbrook, Stuart Cramer, Crest, Forestview, Kings Mountain and North Gaston will remain together with South Point returning to 3A by coming over from the Southwestern 2A and current member Hunter Huss moving to a 1A/2A split conference of schools (called Conference 40) from Cleveland and Gaston counties.

That 1A/2A league, which is reminiscent of the original Southern Piedmont 1A/2A from 1997 to 2001 would include Bessemer City, Cherryville and Highland Tech of the current Southern Piedmont 1A, Burns, East Gaston and Shelby of the current Southwestern 2A and Huss coming down from 3A to 2A.

Current Southern Piedmont 1A schools Lincoln Charter and Piedmont Community Charter of Gaston County have been placed in the Charlotte-area 1A/2A West Conference 39 that includes 1A- and 2A-sized charter and private schools that also include Gaston County’s Mountain Island Charter. Other schools in that placement are current Southern Piedmont 1A member Christ the King of Huntersville and current Piedmont Athletic Conference 1A members Community School of Davidson, Langtree Charter and Pine Lake Prep. Lincoln Charter, Community School of Davidson and Pine Lake Prep are 2A schools with the other four being 1A.

The current South Fork 2A has been split up three ways, with current members Bandys, Lincolnton, Maiden, Newton-Conover and West Lincoln placed in 2A West Conference 45 along with current Midwest 2A members Bunker Hill and East Burke.

Current South Fork members East Lincoln and North Lincoln have been moved to a 3A West Conference 51 with Foard, Hickory and St. Stephens of Catawba County and North Iredell, Statesville and West Iredell of Iredell County.

And former South Fork 2A member Lake Norman Charter has been placed in 3A West Conference 48 with schools from Cabarrus and Rowan counties.

Just outside of Cleveland, Gaston and Lincoln counties, big changes are coming for schools from Mecklenburg and Rutherford counties.

Mecklenburg County schools have been placed in three all-inclusive leagues.

It’ll include a 3A/4A split conference (3A/4A West Conference 39) comprised of 3A schools West Charlotte and West Mecklenburg along with 4A schools Berry Academy, Harding, Ardrey Kell, Olympic and South Mecklenburg. The two all-4A leagues are 4A West Conference 59 (Butler, Catholic, East Mecklenburg, Independence, Myers Park, Providence and Rocky River) and 4A West Conference 60 (Garinger, Hopewell, Hough, Mallard Creek, North Meck and Vance).

All four Rutherford County schools – current Southwestern 2A members Chase, East Rutherford and R-S Central and current Southern Piedmont 1A member Thomas Jefferson – will be in a league for the first time and are being placed in 1A/2A West Conference 41 with Brevard, Hendersonville, Polk County and Rosman. Thomas Jefferson and Rosman will be 1A schools and the other six will be 2A.

Statewide, there are more split classification conferences than all-inclusive ones by a more than two-to-one margin.

Schools have until Jan. 8, 2021 to submit their concerns over the current proposal and a second draft will be released on Jan. 14.

The NCHSAA hopes to have its 2021-25 plan officially approved shortly after the final appeals deadline of Feb. 17, 2021.

Competition for the current proposal begins with the fall 2021 sports season.

NCHSAA proposal for Cleveland, Gaston, Lincoln counties:

1A/2A West Conference 39
Christ the King (1A)
Langtree Charter (1A)
Mountain Island Charter (1A)
Piedmont Community Charter (1A)
Community School of Davidson (2A)
Lincoln Charter (2A)
Pine Lake Prep (2A)

1A/2A West Conference 40
Bessemer City (1A)
Cherryville (1A)
Highland Tech (1A)
Burns (2A)
East Gaston (2A)
Hunter Huss (2A)
Shelby (2A)

2A West Conference 45
Bandys
Bunker Hill
East Byurke
Lincolnton
Maiden
Newton-Conover
West Lincoln

3A West Conference 50
Ashbrook
Stuart Cramer
Crest
Forestview
Kings Mountain
North Gaston
South Point

3A West Conference 51
East Lincoln
Foard
Hickory
North Iredell
North Lincoln
St. Stephens
Statesville
West Iredell