Pam Pack could return to 3A under new proposal

Published 5:10 pm Thursday, April 20, 2023

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A possible expansion to as many as seven classifications for high school sports in North Carolina took another step this week as a majority of school administrators voted to change a bylaw to permit such an expansion.

There has been much previous discussion to expand from the current four classifications, but the proposal failed the last time three years ago because not enough school administrators voted. Not so this time around, as over 75% of the schools voted to approve.

“I did in with enthusiasm, Southside principal Justin Holt said. “There are so many more schools across our state now and it just makes sense to play schools with similar enrollments. We are the ninth most populous state in the country now and we have a lot of geographic and size diversity that needs to be better managed. Our system needs to evolve to keep up with the growth and this is a huge step in that direction.”

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association has a plan to split the 432 member schools into seven classes of 64. Not all school offer every sport, so the math works out to 64 in each and it’s possible for a school to be in a different classification for a few sports based on how many schools offer than sport.

“We just started girls soccer and there aren’t that many other 1A schools in the east that do and it’s the same for golf,” Northside athletic director Jared Adams said. “It’s possible we could be 2A for soccer and golf and 1A for everything else. Hopefully, it will help us with travel within the future conference. It’s more than two hours to Lejeune and an hour and forty five minutes to Jones and Pamlico County now and it would be nice to get our athletes and coaches home a littler earlier.”

Each class would have 64 schools, 32 in the east and west with 16 qualifying for the playoffs. That would eliminate the first round in most sports, which coaches seem to be in favor of.

Average daily membership (or attendance) will determine what classification a school is in. The changes are not scheduled to happen until the next realignment for the 2024-25 school year, so the current enrollment figures could change. According to state-wide sports website, Washington High School would be the second largest school in 3A with 828 students enrolled based on this years’ attendance, while Southside would be 15th in 1A with 417 and Northside 22nd with 375. Ocracoke is the smallest school in the state that plays sports with 52 students.

Despite the step up from 2A to 3A, Washington athletic director Lane Raper is in favor of the change.

“We think it’s a great step forward and were absolutely surprised when it passed,” he said. “There are a lot of unknowns and details to work out, but it is best for our programs to support expansion. I think it levels the playing field and hopefully we can shorten our travel.”

WHS was most recently part of 3A during the 202-13 school year.

The NCHSAA meets in early May to further determine how the proposed classification system will work when actual numbers are factored in.