By STEVE SAVARESE
Executive Director, AHSAA
MONTGOMERY – In an effort to provide fair play among member schools, the Alabama High School Athletic Association reclassifies its member schools every two years based on enrollment data in accordance with the AHSAA Constitution and by-laws. Thanks to the State Department of Education and modern technology, the AHSAA now has a program designed specifically for its member schools that provides enormous assistance in aligning the schools geographically more accurately and more timely.
The Central Board of Control is expected to address classification for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years at its board meeting Thursday at the AHSAA Office in Montgomery. For the first time in the AHSAA’s long history, classification will include non-traditional students such as home-school and virtual school students in its average daily membership totals.
The AHSAA mission has not changed over its long history which started with its formation in the 1920-21 school year. The mission statement states: The AHSAA serves member schools through interscholastic competition by enhancing student learning, sportsmanship, safety and lifelong values. With integrity as its foundation, the AHSAA consistently governs the rules created by its member schools.
The member schools have written the organization’s constitution and continue to establish the by-laws. The AHSAA Constitution states in Article 7, Item 4 (l): The Central Board shall have the power to classify member schools into two or more divisions for the purpose of athletic competition. No school’s classification shall be changed during the classification period after the schools have been classified.
In accordance with the AHSAA constitution, high schools are currently divided into seven classifications (1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, 5A, 6A and 7A) for competition in championship programs. Classification is based on Average Daily Membership (ADM) figures furnished by the State Department of Education for public schools for the upper three grades plus ninth grade students that are retained in the ninth grade. Member private schools report that same data directly to the AHSAA. An index of 1.35 is used to determine the enrollment figure for classifying each private school member. Each private school student counts 1.35 for classification purposes.
Alignments are made for each sport in a classification based on the number of schools participating in a sport. Some programs may include two or more classes in a division. The alignments for each sport in a class are published in the AHSAA Sports Book each year.
The AHSAA Classification Committee, made up of superintendents, principals, athletic directors, administrators and coaches from across the state, has spent countless hours studying ways to improve the current classification process. The task force, chaired by Madison County Schools Superintendent Mark Massey and Montgomery Academy Athletic Director Anthony McCall, addressed many issues concerning the membership including ways to improve competitive balance between schools in the respective classes.
The AHSAA staff has worked closely with the committee to provide any historical data that might be helpful. The committee, in turn, will make recommendations to the Central Board they think might help to improve the current system for our member schools. We appreciate the efforts of this committee, the leadership of its co-chairmen, and the Central Board of Control. Their input is vital as the AHSAA continues to evolve into the 21st Century.
Classification is important to the membership for many reasons. Seven classes, which was approved by the Central Board of Control for the 2014-15 school year, has been a very positive move for our member schools. A record number of schools participate in post-season championship play and a number of schools have participated in state championship events for the first time as a result.
Classification has changed as the AHSAA membership has changed. The AHSAA was formed in 1920-21 with the first “official” state champion crowned in basketball that winter. A total of 248 public and private schools made up that first charter with all competing in one class for the championship. That one-class system remained until 1947 with championships in basketball, golf, outdoor track and baseball as 320 member schools were divided into two classes. By 1963, the AHSAA had expanded to include 352 public and private schools with additional champions crowned in wrestling and boys’ and girls’ tennis and a four-class system was introduced. Three years later, the football playoffs were added, and in 1968-69, the AHSAA merged with the Alabama Interscholastic Athletic Association (AIAA) with 524 member public and private schools making up the AHSAA as a result.
Many school systems merged schools in the early 1970s, and by 1974, the total number of schools were reduced to 416. That number remained constant for the next 10 years, and in 1984-85, the AHSAA expanded its classifications to six – with a full array of girls’ sports, including golf, volleyball, indoor and outdoor track and cross country among the AHSAA’s championship sports offered. Softball was added in 1986, boys’ and girls’ soccer in 1991.
A total of 410 member schools competed in six classes until the seven-class system was approved in the 2014-15 school year. Bowling, which was offered for a short time for girls only in the 1970s, was added as a championship sport for boys and girls in 2016.
Classification provides new experiences and opportunities for our changing membership. As the AHSAA continues to serve its membership best, it is important that we all remember the original mission that created this organization. We should always treasure the opportunity to experience the life lessons that can be learned from participating in educational-based sports and other activities.