High school basketball’s five-class format needs nonpartisan evaluation

Two years ago, the Maine Principals’ Association membership voted to go to five classes for high school basketball by adding an AA class for the 16 big schools.

The main reason this occurred was because Eastern D was going to 25 teams, which would have forced a second round of prelim games that the MPA didn’t want.

The ultimate result was going to five classes but doing so is creating several challenging and difficult problems for scheduling, traveling and uneven class numbers for some member schools.

The 25-team problem took care of itself in the fall of 2015 as two schools dropped basketball, leaving only 23 teams in Eastern D. Just switching a couple of Eastern D teams to Western D would have solved the problem of two prelim rounds but the change had already been made in April of 2015 when members approved the five-class concept 67-29 just moments after overwhelmingly rejecting an amendment that would have delayed implementation of a five-class proposal for a year.

The MPA’s Classification Committee met last week because this is a classification year and it looks as though the five classes will stay intact.

I worked on the MPA Classification Committee when I was the athletic director and basketball coach at John Bapst in the 1990s. There is some politics involved as some advocate for their schools or areas.

The best way to avoid this and to get objective information out to the membership on the five-class format would be to form a nonpartisan group of former athletic directors and coaches. Their task would be to evaluate the five-class format and recommend to the general membership any changes that need to be made for the best interest of Maine high school basketball.

The three MPA officers who attend the MPA sports committee meetings should not be allowed to attend the nonpartisan group’s meetings. Those officers don’t vote but could still provide information to influence committee decisions.

My recommendation would be to go back to four classes. The total number of teams would be divided up evenly in what are now called the North and South and then into four classes that are evenly divided up for each area.

All schools aren’t going to be happy with this format but MPA members should understand that basketball is one of the few team sports that doesn’t require big enrollments to be successful. It takes only two good players, good coaching and a good building program to be competitive.

Instead, the MPA is likely to rely on information from a classification committee that has difficulty being objective. That will probably mean staying with the five-class format with a change to one Class AA division and one tourney for it, leaving four other unbalanced classes that are not in the best interest of high school basketball in our state.