High school sports: Realignment remains hot topic, especially for Oxford
by Brandon Miller
Jan 18, 2014 | 4147 views |  0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Wednesday, Oxford football coach Ryan Herring could see his program move up to a much-speculated Class 7A or remain in 6A as one of the division's largest schools. (Photo by Bill Wilson)
By Wednesday, Oxford football coach Ryan Herring could see his program move up to a much-speculated Class 7A or remain in 6A as one of the division's largest schools. (Photo by Bill Wilson)
As schools around the state wait for the new realignment to be released Wednesday by the Alabama High School Athletic Association, there’s plenty of speculation about the possibility of an increase from six classifications to seven.

Oxford High falls the path of a possible new classification. Oxford athletics director Larry Davidson said the biggest question is what the cutoff for enrollment would be if there is a Class 7A.

The most commonly mentioned numbers for a possible 7A would be the 32, 36 or 48 largest high schools in the state making up the new classification. The AHSAA has set a news conference for 1 p.m. Wednesday at its Montgomery headquarters to release the new alignment.

“We’ve heard a lot of speculation that it’d be the biggest 32,” he said. “That’d have us closer to some of the teams that we need to be with.”

The AHSAA had 401 member schools in 2012, which was the last time the classifications and regions were realigned. The state association increased from one classification to two in 1947. That was increased to four in 1963 and six in 1984.

Georgia’s high school association has approximately 435 schools and six classifications. Florida has eight classifications and about 750 schools. Tennessee also has eight with about 375 schools. Mississippi has 263 schools spread out over six classifications.

Oxford had a daily enrollment of 883.75 students in 2012. That number made Oxford the 42nd biggest school in the AHSAA. Hoover High ranked the biggest, with 1,902.95 as its enrollment. The median daily enrollment of Class 6A schools in 2012 was 1,317.88.

Oxford’s ranking isn’t expected to change radically in the new alignment.

The top 30 biggest high schools in Alabama each have more than 1,000 students, making Oxford one of the smaller schools in Class 6A, which currently features 63 schools.

However, Oxford football coach Ryan Herring doesn’t think remaining in 6A if a Class 7A is created will necessarily benefit the Yellow Jackets, which went 9-3 in 2013 and made the second round of the playoffs.

“On paper it looks like it’d be beneficial to us, but what I’ve noticed sometimes is that if you take out Hoover, some of the smaller 6As are tougher. Minus Hoover, some of your smaller 6As are your better 6As,” Herring said. “I’ve seen Daphne – they were a smaller 6A when they won it (in football) and they’re tough every year. Of course Oxford, Shades Valley isn’t a big 6A, Clay-Chalkville isn’t a big 6A.

“The way I look at it is I can’t control any of that stuff. So I can speculate, but I can’t worry about like, ‘Where here; I hope we’re there.’ You worry about a letdown when stuff like that happens. All I can do is wait for Jan. 22 and see what they do because they’ve left everyone out in the cold on it.”

There are three schools with which Oxford shares a football and basketball area – Gadsden City, Clay-Chalkville and Pell City. In the previous alignment, Gadsden City was No. 26 in the AHSAA in size, while Clay-Chalkville was No. 35 and Pell City No. 37.

The new realignments are usually announced in November by the AHSAA, and Davidson said he’s ready to “move on” and begin scheduling for next school year. And yet, the guarantee of a Class 7A isn’t official, or at least not until Wednesday.

“It’s just a lot of smoke right now,” Herring said. “I’d like to see a 7A to see how it works. We’ve been doing six classes since 1984 so it’d be neat for a change. If it doesn’t go well we could go right back to six, that’s how I look at it.”

Oxford is not the only school in the area that is involved in changing classifications. Anniston, which has a daily enrollment of 422.15, and Clay Central (420.45) each sat near the top of Class 4A enrollments in 2012 and may see a change Wednesday, as well.

In Class 3A, Saks (297.90) is on the fence of moving up, and in Class 2A, there is a question of whether Wellborn (227.95) will return to 3A after dropping to 2A two years ago. Wellborn ranks as the second largest 2A school with its daily enrollment with fewer than two students below the 3A’s smallest school.

Pleasant Valley (219.35) could move up to 3A, possibly being joined by Ohatchee (217.55).

Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star.
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