ELIZABETHTOWN — Kim Cain, athletics director and varsity baseball coach at West Bladen, asked the Bladen County Board of Education on Monday to take a stand on the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s current proposal for the realignment of conferences.
At issue, for both East Bladen and West Bladen athletics, is the fact that the proposed realignment would put the Bladen County schools in an eight-team, Class 2-A conference that would drastically increase the travel time for competition.
“Travel costs to these schools that are so far away is astronomical,” Cain said. “In addition, many kids are leaving school early to go to sporting events and they’re getting back late, affecting their academics.”
Cain also told the board that West Bladen has noticed absences and tardy occurrences of student-athletes have increased the day after games since the Knights joined the Four County Conference — which takes West Bladen out to places like Dunn, Rocky Point and Rose Hill.
“Some of these kids are only getting four or five hours of sleep per night because they’re getting back (to the school) at 11 at night,” Cain said, “then they have to travel home and get up early to catch the bus.”
Cain added that fans are choosing not to attend games because they are so far away, thereby affecting the gates schools rely on to help pay for the athletics program.
The NCHSAA realigns conferences state wide every four years, and the next realignment is scheduled to take affect for the 2017-2021 school years.
Under the current proposal, East Bladen and West Bladen would be in the same conference as Clinton, Wallace-Rose Hill, East Duplin, James Kenan, Midway and Spring Creek. Initially, Goldsboro was included as a ninth member, but was eliminated prior to the second round of the draft proposal.
Cain has previously stated that another ripple effect if the current realignment proposal holds up could be that some of the non-revenue sports — presumably tennis and golf — could be eliminated.
“I really hope that doesn’t happen,” said West Bladen girls tennis coach Jeff Atkinson. “Besides the loss of the tennis program in 2017, it would be pretty hard to get girls out next fall knowing they would only play one season.
“The one possible alternative could be we start a club tennis program,” he added. “But we have to wait and see what happens.”
In addition, anonymous sources at both local high schools have hinted that some coaches are considering leaving if the current realignment holds, citing travel time.
The Board of Education unanimously approved the resolution opposing the NCHSAA’s realignment proposal.
The final conference realignment is scheduled to be released March 16, with any potential appeals to be heard in early May.
W. Curt Vincent and Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.