Realignment proposals by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association for the 2017-21 seasons continue to befuddle athletics directors and coaches alike in Bladen County.
Last week, the NCHSAA gave its approval for a revamped, second version of a realignment proposal that only slightly changed the original proposal for East Bladen and West Bladen.
That original proposal for the Eagles and Knights into a nine-school, straight Class 2-A conference with current Four County Conference members Clinton, Midway and Wallace-Rose Hill — along with newcomers Goldsboro, James Kenan, Spring Creek and East Duplin.
Last Thursday, after receiving input from coaches and athletics directors, the NCHSAA sliced Goldsboro out of the proposed new conference but left the rest intact.
That change did take away one conference trip that represented nearly a 160-mile round-trip nightmare for East and West, as well as opens up an additional date for non-conference games.
But what remains still isn’t making East Bladen Athletics Director Patty Evers or West Bladen Athletics Director Kim Cain very happy.
“Goldsboro would have been a long trip for us, but Spring Creek and East Duplin are nearly as far,” Cain said. “(The proposed conference) will really affect the crowds, kids will be getting out of school early and getting home late, and the financial burden will be tremendous — and could cause us to cut out the non-revenue sports because we won’t be able to afford them.”
“As ADs, it was our job to submit a proposal if we didn’t agree with the first draft,” she said. “Both East and West agreed that the first proposal was too much travel, students would be out of class more, and the gates would not do well because of the travel.
“The second proposal is better than the first, but we still have a good amount of travel,” Evers added.
Cain said he can’t understand why the NCSHAA won’t go back to either putting Bladen County teams in with the Columbus County schools — like the former Waccamaw Conference of a few years ago — or with the Robeson County schools — like the old Three Rivers Conference of several years back.
“There are natural rivalries with schools from either of those counties, which would create much-better gates,” Cain said, “and the travel would be far less.”
The next realignment meetings will be held from Feb. 8-12 for schools to give input on the second draft. Following those meetings, the deadline for schools to respond in writing with concerns or suggestions for the second draft is March 1.
Neither Cain or Evers is sure of what is being proposed in the second draft will get changed.
“I think what we’ve been given is pretty much going to be it,” Cain said.
“If it holds true, this conference will be a powerhouse in football,” Evers said. “That’s pretty much all the talk has been about. It appears that this could very well be the conference when it is all said than done.
Unless there are extenuating circumstances, the final conference lineup will be released on March 16. Appeals could be heard in early May.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.