A sudden and dramatic shift in conferences means a potential revenue windfall for Conway High School.
For that reason, Buzz Bolding, athletic director for Conway Public Schools, is pleased that a vote by the largest 32 schools in the state placed Bryant, Cabot and North Little Rock back into the 7A/6A Central Conference for the next two years.
Representatives of those schools voted 23-9 to move six schools from their original assignments for the next two-year classification cycle. That means Little Rock Parkview and Little Rock Hall, originally assigned to the Central Conference, will be moved to the East and Cabot and North Little Rock, assigned to the East, will return to the Central. Little Rock Fair, also assigned to the Central, will move to the South and Bryant will return to the Central.
Because of travel concerns, the AAA Board of Directors voted last spring merged the 7A/6A leagues for regular-season competition. They will be separated into a larger school/smaller school division for the playoffs. Searcy, the smallest member of 7A/6A Conference, appeals about being placed in the same conference with much larger schools such as Conway, Little Rock Central, Little Rock Catholic and Russellville. The 19-member AAA board made no recommendation but submitted the appeal to the 7A/6A schools for a mail ballot.
The result is the new 7A/6A Central will be the same as the current one: Conway, Bryant, Cabot, Little Rock Catholic/Mount St. Mary, Little Rock Central, North Little Rock, Russellville and Van Buren.
"I’m happy it went back to what we have now because of the revenue it will mean for us," said Bolding. "Bryant, Cabot and North Little Rock represent some of our top gates in about every sport. They are much more gates that Fair, Parkview and Hall. We were OK with whatever they decided, but you can’t turn your back on that revenue. Cabot and North Little Rock were going to be our non-conference football gamesl regardless.
"You work hard to establish rivalries and it’s good for the fans when you can keep them. We have great rivalries with Bryant, Cabot and North Little Rock in everything. Everything. I’m glad they decided to keep things as they are in this conference."
The new East Conference will consist of Jacksonville, Jonesboro, Little Rock Hall, Little Rock Parkview, Marion, Mountain Home, Searcy and West Memphis.
"I don’t know if travel is that big of an issue anymore, maybe with some administrators," Bolding said, "but it really gets down to winning and losing, particularly football. The smaller 6A schools, like Searcy, thought it was a competitive disadvantage, particularly in football. And it’s about winning and losing for the coaches because their livelihood is measured on winning and losing."
So far, AAA officials have tried to keep the divisions with the highest enrollment at 16 schools for manageable playoff purposes.
Bolding said he wouldn’t be surprised if, when the next classification cycle comes up, there will be a proposoal to align 7A, 6A, 5A in a 16-32-32 manner.
"If you study it, you’ll see there is a bigger difference between the 16 schools with the highest enrollment in 7A and the 17th school than in the school with the 17th highest enrollment and the next 31," he said.