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NMAA going back to five classifications

Five classes? Check.

A new conference model? Not so fast.

As expected, the New Mexico Activities Association’s board of directors on Wednesday morning voted to return the state to a five-class system for high school athletics, starting with the 2018-19/2019-20 block.

Less clear is how the schools will be arranged.

“As a voting board,” said board president, Hobbs Superintendent T.J. Parks, “we need to vote on what’s best for the state.”

Here is what we know after Wednesday:

The current “even classes” format will be shed. To retain the “even class” model going forward would have translated into roughly 31 or 32 schools in each of the five classes.

Currently, the “even class” model has 24 schools in 6A, 24 in 5A and 24 in 3A, with a fairly close distribution in Classes 3A (28), 2A (30) and 1A (25). That is how basketball schools are split up at present.

The next plan likely will create some disparity in the number of schools in each class, but less disparity in the enrollments of schools within a class. A newly configured Class 5A, for example, might have 20 schools, but a newly configured Class 4A might have 30 schools.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” NMAA executive director Sally Marquez said. “We just need somewhere to start.”

Said Parks: “It’s not an easy fix.”

Parks asked the NMAA office staff to do further research into the district vs. conference comparisons and present their findings at the next board meeting, June 8.

The conference model, Marquez said, would “make people play in their areas to help schools” and would help reduce travel and missed class time for students.

Within conferences, schools routinely could play opponents either one class higher or lower.  The common example tossed around is the southeast region, where larger schools like Clovis, Carlsbad and Hobbs would play in a conference with schools one level below them, like Roswell, Goddard, Artesia and Lovington.

Marquez presented a survey finding to the board Wednesday that said 71 percent of schools want five classes while the other 29 percent want to remain at six. Class 1A was the most split (50-50) on this.

That survey also revealed that 63 percent of schools want to keep the district format, and 37 percent are in favor of conferences. There was no immediate breakdown of how that vote applied on a regional basis, Marquez said.

“They’d still need to be forced to travel, and that is why the (classification and alignment) committee went to the conference idea,” Marquez said.

How to select the state tournament fields in the conference model is one of the things that has yet to be determined but will be hashed out before it goes back to the board with options in June.

“The (athletic directors) have weighed in, and now the superintendents are weighing in. … In the final product, we will have opinions from all member schools,” Marquez said.

Whatever model is in place for 2018-19/2019-20 must be confirmed by November.

New Mexico has had six classifications since the 2010-11 school year. From 2010-11 through 2013-14, there were Classes 5A thru 1A, plus a Class B. Since the 2014-15 school year, the change was nominal, 6A thru 1A, as Class B was simply changed to Class 1A.

Football is the only sport in which the five-class system would not apply. That sport would remain at six or seven divisions. Currently, it is seven, with an 8-man and 6-man division to go with classes 2A through 6A.

“We are still going round and round as to how to classify football,” Marquez said.

Los Lunas Schools Superintendent Dana Sanders was the only member of the NMAA board to vote against the five-class proposal at the board meeting.

Other items of note from Wednesday’s meeting:

To’hajiilee’s football team is returning to 8-man action next fall, but it isn’t yet known if it will compete as an independent or inside a district.

Often, athletes transfer from one school to another after they’ve been cut during the tryout process. Such transfer students will be denied eligibility at any level of that sport for the remainder of that school year. This will go out to the schools as a referenda item.