Every two years, the Alabama High School Athletics Association (AHSAA) places its teams into classifications based on average daily enrollment numbers for the first 20 school days after Labor Day. Starting in 2017, the group’s Central Board of Control introduced the “competitive balance rule,” which directs successful private schools to play some sports against teams in higher classifications.
This introduced another barrier for private schools. These squads already had a “multiplier” used since 1999 that counted each student 1.35 times in determining their enrollment. The intention was to combat what some see as an advantage held by these parochial and private schools in such issues as staffing, facilities and the opportunity to attract students.
Several local schools will feel the effects of reclassification. None more than Bayside Academy, which last season tied the national record for winning its 18th consecutive state volleyball title.
The AHSAA will have the Admirals competing in Class 5A. If the actual number of students on the Daphne campus were counted, Bayside would be listed as Class 2A.
“Yes, we are 5A,” head coach Ann Schilling told Lagniappe. She was anticipating the change after Bayside had already collected state trophies in Classes 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A.
“We may as well embrace it,” said Schilling, who was inducted into the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame in 2017 and was the National Federation of High Schools’ Coach of the Year in 2010. “We should be fine. It will be more difficult, but we do play a very stout schedule and should be prepared.”
St. Paul’s Episcopal School tried to contest the competitive balance rule in 2018 by filing a federal civil lawsuit against the AHSAA. The suit claimed the move put their athletes in harm’s way by playing larger schools. The Saints eventually dropped the lawsuit.
With the competitive balance rule, private schools in the playoffs are charged one-half point for making the round of 16, one point for an appearance in a quarterfinal game, two points for the semifinals and four points for a spot in a championship. These are implemented when a private school’s sports team meets the threshold on the championship data from the previous two years.
For single-gender sports such as football, volleyball, golf, baseball, softball and wrestling, teams that score more than four points are moved up a classification. If one to four points are earned, the schools stay in the current class. If they earn less than one point, they move down a class.
For co-ed sports like basketball, soccer, swimming, tennis, cross-country, indoor track, outdoor track and bowling, the point totals for the boys and girls are added together. Those with more than seven points are moved up a classification. If two to seven points are earned, the schools stay in the current class. If they earn less than two points, they move down.
The new football alignment for the 2020 – 2021 and 2021 – 2022 school years places the 32 largest high schools into Class 7A. The remaining six classes are divided with 59 football-playing schools in each class.
The Central Board also approved the sports alignments for cross-country and swimming. The winter sports alignments will be announced following the end of the basketball season. The spring sports alignments will be revealed following the conclusion of those playoffs.
Three private school football programs that reached the Competitive Balance threshold during the current classification will move up one class. The two local schools are Mobile Christian and UMS-Wright, while the other school is Mars Hill Bible.
St. Paul’s was among the two schools bumped up in the first Competitive Balance application that did not meet the threshold to remain in the higher class during the current classification period. The Saints will drop back one class in the new classification period along with Madison Academy.
Of the eight school volleyball programs that moved up a class for the current classification period, Bayside, Providence Christian and St. James earned enough points to advance to another class. St. Luke’s Episcopal, Madison Academy and St. Paul’s will remain in the same class. Decatur Heritage and John Carroll Catholic did not meet the threshold and will move down one classification.
Faith Academy in Mobile, Athens Bible, Westminster-Oak Mountain and Montgomery Academy are moving up for the first time because of the Competitive Balance.
McGill-Toolen, which is dropping from 7A to 6A through enrollment, will see its volleyball program remain in 7A because of the Competitive Balance points earned.
The reclassification enrollment and alignment data for the sports of football, volleyball, cross-country and swimming can be found at ahsaa.com/Schools/2020-Re-Classification.
* Terry Curtis of UMS-Wright has been named the National Football Coach of the Year. He is among 23 mentors selected for different sports by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Curtis has compiled a 317-85 career record over 31 years. After stops at Shaw and Murphy high schools, he has spent the last 21 with the Bulldogs. At UMS, his teams have won eight state titles — including the last three Class 4A championships.
“This is quite an honor,” Curtis said in a news release. “I knew I wanted to be a coach when I was in the eighth grade. I am truly humbled, and am reminded of so many others who have been responsible for our success. I share this recognition with our outstanding assistant coaches, with an administration that has always been so supportive and with players who are committed to playing for a school and a team that they believe in.”
Curtis, who was inducted into the AHSAA Hall of Fame in 2004, is the fourth Alabama coach to receive the national honor. Ann Schilling of Bayside was the 2009 – 2010 Volleyball Coach of the Year.
* Becky Dickinson, the first volleyball coach to be inducted into the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame, has passed away. She was 83.
Dickinson coached at McGill-Toolen from 1970 to 1998. With her famed “Dirty Dozen” volleyball team, she won 1,273 games and 14 state titles. Among her former students who have excelled at coaching are Ann Schilling at Bayside, Gretchen Boykin at Spanish Fort and Monique Adams at Daphne.
Dickinson also led McGill-Toolen to three girls’ basketball titles and three boys’ tennis championships. She was honored by the AHSAA in 1991 and joined the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.
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