By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
When all was said and done, there was far more said than done.
The TSSAA Board of Control postponed a vote on classification until a special-called July 12 meeting on Thursday, giving representatives more time to poll coaches and administrators from their respective areas on plans that will divide prep football into either five or six classes in Tennessee.
Fred Kesler — one of two representatives from rural West Tennessee on the board and the principal at Bolivar — made the motion to table the decision for now at Thursday’s session that was the second in three days designated to discuss the issue. The motion passed by the slimmest of margins by the nine-member board, 5-4.
While there was at least some intrigue in a four-class plan in all sports, this particular classification session is essentially all about football.
Though nothing has been official, the general consensus is that all sports other than football will remain in their current three-class alignment.
Football may or may not remain in its present state.
The ‘Z-plan’ set-up that was adopted three years ago currently lumps all of Tennessee’s prep football-playing schools into three classes for the regular season before dividing them into six divisions for the playoffs.
Though the postseason of that system has been confusing to many and come under wide-spread scrutiny during its existence, there is support for keeping it over the next four years — beginning with the 2013-14 school year.
There’s support, too, though, for a five-class setup in football similar to the one used the TSSAA from 1993-2008.
In that plan, the top four teams in each of the eight regions qualify for the postseason.
Board of Control member and Dresden High School Principal Chuck West — rural West Tennessee’s other representative in the group — told The Messenger Thursday night he would attempt “to talk to as many administrators and coaches as he could” to get their input before voting on the issue in a little less than a month.
“I’ll make some phone contact, but I’d like to get at least the administrators all together at some time,” he said. “My plans are to communicate with as many people as I can between now and July 12.
“But with it being the summertime with people scattered in so many directions, it might be tough to get a lot of people together.”
West said the widespread speculation that cutting from six classes to five in football and the revenue it would cost the state’s governing athletic body would not be an issue when the final decision was made.
He also admitted he was one of the board members who liked some of the things with the four-class alignment across the board, but also said the total overhaul it would cause the state’s playoff system in each sport made it impractical.
There has been some information released publicly by other media outlets over where each school would be placed should the five-class system be adopted.
West warned, though, that because any such district and/or regions would be made up of enrollments taken last January, those are not set in stone.
The classification system will, in fact, be adopted in July, but schools won’t be officially placed in classes and leagues until November after enrollments are taken following the first three weeks from the 2012-13 school year.
“Two or three schools going up or down would effect a lot of things,” West said.
“Generally, schools have less students the longer school year goes on. Their highest enrollments are normally at the start of the year.”
The area board member insists he hasn’t made up his mind how he’ll vote, but conceded his could be “one or two of the swing votes” that could mean the approval of either plan.
“I’m still going to study both plans and what they’ll mean to not only our people, but state-wide,” West concluded. “It’s certainly not an easy or simple decision.”
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 6.15.12