Recently, the Arkansas Activities Association released their classification numbers with various changes to the way competition could look from 2020-2022.
Initially, Jonesboro’s numbers put them in 7A (football)/6A (basketball) competition and caused Van Buren to drop to 6A in football and 5A in basketball.
Because Jonesboro was moved up classifications, questions arose about how the 16 schools would be divided into two eight-team divisions and who from the central would move to the west.
Questions about whether Fort Smith Northside and Southside would be split up or not?
Would Conway move into the west?
It created quite a confusing situation as there were really no for sure answers at the time.
It was also looking like Jonesboro and both or either of Fort Smith Northside and Southside would be traveling nearly four hours across the state to play conference games, thus creating a hectic schedule.
The creation of Little Rock Southwest from combining Little Rock’s J.A. Fair, Little Rock McClellan and several students from Little Rock Hall put Southwest in 6A/5A.
Because of an influx of students coming from Hall, Southwest appealed to move up, which led to Jonesboro staying where it currently is.
But, keeping Jonesboro where they are made more sense and moving Southwest up to the 7A/6A Central’s made more sense as well.
Thus, the travel problem was solved, however, with Van Buren — who was competing in the west — and moving Southwest up the next problem was created.
Because of Southwest’s location in Little Rock, more importantly, central Arkansas, the AAA decided to split the two Fort Smith schools with Southside moving to compete in the west.
And, rightfully so, the two Fort Smith schools are not happy about it.
While it does cut down travel for Southside, it does hurt the rivalry between the two schools.
It absolutely makes sense for the two Fort Smith schools to compete against each other during conference play, but now, that is not going to happen for the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
But, in fairness, there could be something set up like Bryant and Benton have in the Salt Bowl.
Northside and Southside could compete for the battle of Fort Smith or something like that during nonconference play, which would still bring intrigue to the two schools playing.
It may be a tough pill to swallow at first but I’m sure that things will eventually shake out the way they need to.
With numbers changing and schools potentially splitting up or coming in, there is always going to be tough decisions to be made and currently, the two Fort Smith schools take the brunt of it.
In a couple of years, we’ll likely see the AAA revisit the changes and see what is working and what is not.
It would be interesting to see if in a couple of years Northside and Southside flip so travel can be cut down for one school, but that may not happen.
With the way Arkansas is populated, it is hard to designate different areas and truly, the AAA has no control on how the state is populated or what schools have what numbers.
It will take some getting used to but I do see reason for Fort Smith to not be too happy about the change.