AUGUSTA — With a final vote just under two months away, the Maine Principals’ Association classification committee voted unanimously Tuesday to make no changes to the proposal that would expand high school basketball from four classes to five.

The proposal will go before the MPA’s interscholastic committee Thursday and barring any late changes will go to the full membership for a vote on April 30. If it passes the full membership, the five basketball classes will begin play next season.

The classification committee’s vote was unanimous, but not without some debate and discussion. People see the state’s population shift to the south and see the increased amount of smaller schools in eastern and northern Maine. They understand the need to expand to five classes, MPA Assistant Executive Director Gerry Durgin said.

“The concern comes where the (classification) numbers are and placement in the North or South (division),” Durgin said. “No one has expressed opposition with the idea of five classes, just the implementation of it.”

“It’s not perfect. It’s not going to get any better. If we keep changing it, we’ll just make different enemies,” said Phil St. Onge, assistant principal at Nokomis Regional High School in Newport.

The committee read a letter from Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference President Jim Leonard, the athletic director at Maine Central Institute. The letter outlined the problems the KVAC’s member schools have with the five class proposal: No regional tournaments in the AA division, the largest school division; the fear that AA and A would lose playoff spots, and questions as to the effect the new Heal point differential would have on the new alignment.

Under the current Heal point system used to determine playoff seeding in most Maine high school sports, 40 points are assigned for a Class A win, 35 for a Class B win, and 30 and 25 for Class C and D, respectively. Under the proposal to expand to five classes, Heal point values would become 40, 38, 36, 34, 32, from largest division to smallest, in an effort to encourage cross divisional play.

Classification committee member Todd Sampson, athletic director at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, said the KVAC members voted 27-2 to ask the committee to table the five class proposal so more time could be spent studying it.

In the five class proposal, the KVAC would include schools in three classes and five divisions, much like the league crosses class and divisional barriers now. Winslow Junior High Assistant Principal Chris Preble said schools are confusing scheduling with the tournament.

“This is not your schedule. This is your tournament region,” Preble said.

Houlton High School athletic director Bruce Nason asked the committee to consider adjusting the cutoff numbers for Classes A and B. Nason asked that Class A’s low cutoff go from 545 students to 515, and Class B’s low cutoff go from 325 to 300 students. Nason’s proposal would have moved Presque Isle, Belfast and Mt. Desert Island from Class B to Class A, and it was for that reason the classification committee rejected the idea. The committee is trying to get teams playing in their traditional regional tournament sites. Nason’s move would have meant Presque Isle, for example, drove on past Bangor for Class A North regional games at the Augusta Civic Center.

A handful of small northern Maine schools asked the classification committee to consider increasing the Class D cutoff from 130 students to 140, or even 145. Since the committee just increased the cutoff for the smallest schools division to 130 last week, they declined to increase it again. One of the biggest reasons for expanding to five classes was to break up the log jam of teams in the smallest divisions, Forest Hills athletic director Anthony Amero said.

“If we keep pushing this number up, we’re not helping the little guys at all,” Amero said. “We allowed input for a year. We should go with the work we’ve done.”

Should the five class proposal fail on April 30, the classification committee has a four class proposal similar to the one used over the last two seasons ready as a backup. If the proposal fails, the committee will have to decide if five classes in basketball is worth pursuing again.

“I worry if it’s defeated, where do we go next,” committee chair Bunky Dow, athletic director at Mt. Desert Island, said. “What happens if it goes down?”

In other business, the classification committee approved changes made by the football committee, which last week raised the cutoff for Class A to 845 students, allowing Biddeford and Noble to drop to Class B. Originally, Windham was slated to move from Class A East to A West, but when the school expressed a desire to remain in the East, Deering High of Portland was moved to the West, giving each Class A division seven teams.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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