First draft of NCHSAA conference realignment forecasts potential changes for Chatham schools

BY CHAPEL FOWLER, News + Record Staff
Posted 12/10/20

The first draft of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s 2021-25 conference realignment plan, released Thursday morning, features significant changes for Chatham County member …

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First draft of NCHSAA conference realignment forecasts potential changes for Chatham schools

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The first draft of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s 2021-25 conference realignment plan, released Thursday morning, features significant changes for Chatham County member schools.

Most notably, the NCHSAA has proposed a seriously overhauled 1A/2A East split conference featuring 1A Chatham Central, 2A Jordan-Matthews and 2A Seaforth (set to open in Pittsboro next fall).

And while the county’s three other NCHSAA member schools — 3A Northwood, 1A Chatham Charter and 1A Woods Charter — aren’t in split conferences, they can expect some new opponents, too.

The proposed realignment in Chatham County reflected a statewide trend in the association’s proposal: lots and lots of split conferences. Of the NCHSAA’s 61 new conferences, 33 are “split,” meaning they include schools from more than one of the four classifications (1A, 2A, 3A and 4A).

That’s an “unprecedented number,” as the statewide preps site HighSchoolOT put it, especially in comparison to the previous 2017-21 realignment cycle, when the NCHSAA tried to reduce split conferences and only utilize them in areas where it was absolutely necessary.

In a statement Thursday, though, NCHSAA commissioner Que Tucker said the current realignment committee had a “desire not to limit those” split conferences this time around.

“It also takes into consideration the protection of natural rivalries and strongly considers geography and travel time,” she said. “Of course, this means the way of getting into the playoffs must be reviewed and updated. That will come later.”

Tucker added: “I am grateful for the commitment and input of the realignment committee to faithfully represent the membership in their respective regions during this process. I am also thankful for the hard work of our staff members who diligently worked to meet the established deadlines, while continuing to service the other needs of the membership.”

These conference proposals, it’s important to remember, aren’t final. Member schools can submit questions and concerns through an online feedback form by Jan. 8. The realignment committee will meet Jan. 13 to review those submissions before sending out a second draft of conferences on Jan. 14.

According to the NCHSAA’s current schedule, its board of directors will vote on a final realignment proposal in March, and the new realignment will go into effect in August 2021.

Here’s a breakdown of where each Chatham County school ended up in the first draft of conference realignment, which can be viewed on the NCHSAA’s website at cutt.ly/nchsaarealignment. (These conferences will decide on names later in the process.)

3A East Conference 25

Carrboro, Cedar Ridge, Eastern Alamance, Northwood, Orange, Western Alamance and Walter M. Williams.

1A/2A East Conference 14

Chatham Central (1A), North Moore (1A), Cummings (2A), Graham (2A) Jordan-Matthews (2A) and Seaforth (2A).

1A East Conference 13

Chatham Charter, Clover Garden, River Mill, Southern Wake, Triangle Math and Science and Woods Charter.

And here’s a breakdown of where each Chatham County school currently competes in terms of conference. As a reminder, these conferences won’t change until after the 2020-21 athletic year ends.

3A Big 8 Conference

Cedar Ridge, Chapel Hill, East Chapel Hill, Hillside, Northern Durham, Northwood, Orange and Southern Durham.

2A PAC 7 Conference

Eastern Randolph, Jordan-Matthews, Providence Grove, Randleman, T.W. Andrews, Trinity and Wheatmore.

1A Yadkin Valley Conference

Albemarle, Chatham Central, Gray Stone Day, North Moore, North Rowan, North Stanly, South Stanly and Uwharrie Charter.

1A Central Tar Heel Conference

Chatham Charter, Clover Garden, Cornerstone Charter Academy, Eno River Academy, Raleigh Charter, Research Triangle, River Mill Academy and Woods Charter.

Reporter Chapel Fowler can be reached at cfowler@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @chapelfowler.

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