MPA’s five-class proposal for basketball deserves longer deliberation

The five-class proposal for high school basketball recently approved by the Maine Principals’ Association’s Classification Committee deserves more scrutiny and deliberation in the months ahead.

According to a recent story by the BDN’s Ernie Clark, the proposal would add a single-division “Super A” class involving the state’s largest basketball-playing schools to the long-established four-class structure. Classes 2A, 3A, 4A and 5A, as they are named in the proposal, would continue to have two regional divisions each, though those divisions may be renamed north and south rather than east and west to reflect a truer geographic delineation.

In the early 1960s, there were three classes for high school basketball: L-Large, M-Medium and S-Small schools. A few years later, it changed to four classes: LL-Extra Large. L-Large, M-Medium and S-Small schools.

In the early 1970s, the designations changed from LL to A, L to B, M to C and S to D.

Over the years, enrollment numbers were changed to keep classes as even as possible.

Consolidation, decreasing student enrollments in the north and increasing enrollments in the south, and some schools deciding to play above their class created constant changes in the makeup of each class.

The Maine Principals’ Association’s five-class proposal, which would take effect in the 2015-16 season if it gains final approval from the full Maine Principals’ Association membership, has good and bad points.

The good:

— Reduces the gap between numbers of each classification.

— Reduces imbalance of number of Class D teams.

— Evens up the number of teams in each class.

— Attempts to reduce some travel.

— A move from East-West to North-South.

— Changing the A-B-C-D classes to five “A” classes.

The bad:

— Increases travel for some schools.

— Drops some close rivals.

— No East-West division for the Super A schools.

— Little differential in enrollment gaps.

— No extra prelim round in East D until there are more than 24 teams.

With little differential in enrollment gaps, there could be a difference in some travel.

Bangor would be in the exact situation as it is in Class A football, which went to four classes two years ago. Bangor’s closest travel in the new basketball five-class format would be 100 miles one way to Lewiston.

It works better for football because football games are on weekends, but basketball plays throughout the week.

It’s likely that the Bangor basketball team would have nine long trips, so the team would have to be on the road on weekends. Their nine opponents coming to Bangor only once would have to travel on weeknights.

Bangor could lose its closest rivals, Brewer and Hampden, if they choose to remain in Super A unless the preliminary tourney indexes for Super A and 2A are the same.

The negatives outweigh the positives in the proposal.

A better idea would be to divide the 39 Class D teams to East (20 teams) and West (19) and keep Classes A, B and C the same.

This would increase travel for just two East teams that would be moved to the West. However, that’s no different than what would occur to Bangor in the five-class proposal.

The two teams from the East that move to the West could keep their current schedule, but play in the West D tournament.

Or they could rotate two different teams every year to play once every 11 years in the West tourney.

The classification committee’s proposal is going to go before the Maine Principals’ Association basketball committee, the schools, and the Maine Principals’ Association interscholastic management committee for input before it goes to full Maine Principals’ Association membership for a vote.

Much research and discussion is needed before a fair and reasonable decision is reached.

Taking that into consideration, it would be wise for the Maine Principals’ Association to take another year before making a final decision. That deliberation was used for the change of high school football to four classes.

Answers to last week’s 3-point trivia question: As of Dec. 28, 2014, how many Division I men and women are shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc? To qualify, men had to make 2.5 per game and the women 2.2 per game.

Answer: Of the 5,000 men’s players only 62  (.012 percent) and for the 5,000 women only 69 (.014 percent).