MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- For the first time in more than 25 years, the AHSAA Central Board made a major change to the governing body’s classification system.
Beginning this fall, the AHSAA will have seven classifications, with the 32 largest schools by enrollment in the newly created Class 7A. The remaining six classes were divided as equally as possible with 60 schools in 6A, 61 in 5A, 60 in 4A, 60 in 3A, 58 in 2A and 58 making up Class 1A.
The vote was unanimous. AHSAA officials debated the decision during a four-hour work session on Tuesday night. This change will be for all sports.
In Class 7A, there's a nine-team region for the Mobile area. A seven-team region will be made up of schools from the Auburn-Opelika areas and Montgomery.
There will be two eight-team regions in the North. A Birmingham-based region makes up Class 7A, Region 3. Gadsden City joins a Huntsville-heavy Class 7A, Region 4.
The new Class 7A begins with Hoover and its grades 10-12 enrollment of 1,978 students for classification purposes. James Clemens is the smallest school in the new super class with 1,008 students.
“The seven-classification system will allow more student-athletes to participate in championship events and more will experience first-hand what it means to play in some of the best venues in our state,” Central Board President Lamar Brooks said in a press release distributed by the AHSAA. “With the addition of an extra championship game, revenues should increase which will mean much-needed additional money for all schools through the AHSAA revenue sharing program.”
Austin becomes the largest school in the new Class 6A with 1,002 students. Shades Valley is the second-largest Class 6A program with 997 students. That 60-school class stretches all the way to Carroll with its 579 students.
Sidney Lanier is the largest Class 5A school with 569 students. Lincoln is the smallest Class 5A program with 378 students. Headland, with its 377 students, is the largest Class 4A, is a region that stretches down to W.S. Neal at 285 students.
Madison Academy, the reigning two-time football state champion, is the largest Class 3A school with its enrollment count of 284 students. Colbert Heights is the smallest in that class with its 210 students.
Class 2A stretches from Flomaton at 209 students to Tharptown at 144. The largest school in Class 1A, Billingsley has 144 students compared to the smallest school at 34. John Essex remains the smallest school in the AHSAA that fields a football team.
Park Crossing, a new AHSAA school in Montgomery, joins Class 6A. New Shelby County school Helena joins the AHSAA in Class 5A with an estimated 562 students. Chickasaw, a new school in Class 1A, was classified with 109 students.
This is the first major classification change the AHSAA has adopted since 1984, when the governing body switched four classes to six. There has been a movement to create a so-called Super Class, the moniker given to grouping the state’s largest schools together, since Steve Savarese took over as AHSAA executive director six years ago, but this is the first time the plan has garnered enough statewide support to act.
The new seven-classification football alignment places the 32 largest high schools in the new Class 7A. The remaining six classes were divided as equally as possible with 60 schools in 6A, 61 in 5A, 60 in 4A, 60 in 3A, 58 in 2A and 58 making up Class 1A.
A total of 23 schools currently do not participate in football championship play and will placed in the re-classification system based on their reported enrollment numbers.
“I want to thank the AHSAA staff and Central Board for the hard work they put in to develop the re-classification plan that was approved,” AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said. “It was a difficult job, but everyone worked together to find the best solution as we move forward.”
Savarese stated in an AHSAA press release that the seven-class system allows the AHSAA to group schools more closely in enrollment, also reduces the need for nine-team regions in football and has created fewer five-team areas in sports like basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball.
“It also will allow more schools to make the state playoffs and will crown more state champions than at any other time in the history of our organization.”
The Central Board also voted to allow football teams 11 weeks to schedule 10 games. Schools may elect to play a non-region contest the week of Aug. 21-22-23 and then have 10 weeks to play the remaining nine regular-season games.
Schools can still agree to play a non-counting jamboree or regulation game that first week but would then have the remaining 10 weeks to schedule the maximum 10 regular-season contests. This format will give schools more flexibility to schedule non-region games.
The AHSAA adopts a biennial reclassification, which means some schools move up in classification and others move down. Until now, the AHSAA has always placed a similar number of schools – usually about 64 – in each of the six classifications.
AHSAA officials have scheduled a 1 p.m. news conference to explain this year’s reclassification. AL.com planned to carry a livestream of that event but the AHSAA prevented that opportunity on the basis that it is a championship event.
Are you in favor of AHSAA adding a seventh classification? An AL.com poll that went up on Tuesday explored what readers felt about the AHSAA adding another class saw that 70% of 962 voters were in favor of the AHSAA adding an additional class.