A proposal to alter the landscape of Maine high school basketball hit a proverbial wall when a Maine Principals’ Association committee rejected it at a Jan. 19 meeting.

Changes to enrollment numbers — which would have shook up the classes — sparked plenty of debate and discussion. The MPA’s Classification Committee unanimously rejected a Basketball Committee proposal that would have dropped the minimum enrollment level in the state’s five high school basketball classes, starting in 2023-24.

A new statewide Class S would have been created for schools with enrollments of 100 or less.

The Classification Committee scheduled meetings on Feb. 14 and March 6 to vote on new proposals, with members set to meet with chairs of the Basketball Committee to find a solution,

In the meantime, athletic directors at small schools from around the state are grappling with the Class S proposal, which would not have North and South divisions. Class S would also have an open state tournament.

“It’s disappointing that it was shot down, because I think a lot of thought went into it,” said Forest Hills (Jackman) athletic director and boys basketball coach Anthony Amero. “I know (the Basketball Committee) did a lot of work and talked to a lot of people to try to make this a better thing for kids in all divisions.”


Added Bob Sinford, athletic director of Machias Memorial High School: “I was disappointed (the proposal) didn’t go through. I thought it addressed a lot with the small schools. The smaller the school you have, the harder it is to compete, when you’re almost playing (teams with double the enrollment). That’s why some of those schools in Class S would have had some chances. Forest Hills has won (the state title) a couple of times, but in the future, it’s going to get harder.”

Forest Hills fans cheer during the Class D boys basketball state championship game against Southern Aroostook on March 5, 2022 at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

But not everyone agreed.

“To be honest, I wasn’t initially thrilled with the (proposal), so when it was shot down, I wasn’t too upset,” Valley athletic director Britney Cabassa said. “I do wish, if we did go to Class S, that it (would have) had two divisions… For right now, Class D fits for us. We’d like to see and play some teams higher in competition. I know they had talked open tournament with Class S, but that’s something I would be opposed to. I wouldn’t like the open tournament, but once again, how many teams can compete? There’s just so many different factors.”

Carrington Miller, athletic director at Temple Academy in Waterville, said he supports the new Class S, but would like it divided into two divisions.

“If you look at Class AA right now, there’s 17 (total) teams and they do a South and North as it is; we would have had 22 in Class S,” Miller said. “I think it’s feasible that we could have kept two divisions. I know there’s issues with some schools not always being able to have a team, but that’s one thing I would have liked to have kept.”

During the Classification Committee meeting, Southern Aroostook athletic director Cliff Urquhart said he talked to several athletic directors who were also not in favor of a Class S.


“With all due respect to the Basketball Committee, I like those guys, I’ve had numerous conversations with those guys. I don’t think I’d be in favor of it, it moves too many people around (and) I think it’s a little too drastic,” Urquhart said. “I think the perception is that the (proposed) Class S schools overwhelmingly support this. That’s really not the case. I’ve had a couple Class S schools not in favor of it, believe it or not. They feel they don’t want a statewide division; they want a North and South. They worry about travel. They worry about the stigma associated with it. I think in Class D, there’s already a stigma associated with it. Not to name names or name schools, but there wasn’t an overwhelmingly supportive division in that.”

Those against the proposed Class S also cited potential travel concerns, with small schools in nearly every corner of the state. Furthermore, not everyone supports an open tournament.

Valley boys basketball coach Mike Staples talks to Harry Louis during a Class D South quarterfinal game against Rangeley last season at the Augusta Civic Center. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“(Travel) was definitely a concern,” Miller said. “There seems to be a lot of questions left to be answered with the travel. What’s your schedule going to look like? Can you play a whole regional schedule? But then, when you look at the tournament, you have 22 teams competing for eight spots, so you’ll have some (preliminary) games. Temple may have to travel four hours to Ashland for a prelim game, based on that. I think that is a concern, that’s why I would have liked North and South divisions.”

“We don’t want the tournament to be a watered down experience,” Pine Tree Academy Athletic Director Josh Dayen said. “I like the idea of making the tournament, but maybe not having a later game. The quarterfinal, for us in past years, we’d get there, play a game. Sometimes, we get blown out, sometimes we blow the opponent out. It’s not a quarterfinal game would have been. I liked that, just bringing more (teams) into a class.”

MPA director Mike Burnham said during the Classification Meeting meeting another concern was the current health of Class D South. Currently, there are nine girls and boys basketball teams competing in D South. That number could have been 10 entering the season, but Rangeley — citing low numbers — isn’t fielding basketball teams. Rangeley Athletic Director Jeff LaRochelle said he hopes to bring the sport back next winter.

“This year’s middle school has three eighth-graders and seven seventh-graders, there’s 10 players that could play up,” LaRochelle said. “Is it realistic for all those seventh-graders to play up? No. But if we can get four of them, three of them (you’d have enough). We’d be awfully young, but we’re back to playing. On the girls side, it’s still going to be close on the girls side. We lost a few kids that didn’t want to play middle school. We’re hoping we can get them back. It’s tough, you need a crystal ball and obviously nobody has it.”

Of those nine teams, eight will make the quarterfinal round of the Class D tournament. Class D North features 14 teams for boys and girls basketball.

“There is a big difference in the numbers (between Class D North and South) and it’s unfortunate you can’t aim those up a little more,” said John Montgomery, athletic director of Schenck High School in East Millinocket. “It’s a very difficult job on the Maine Principals’ Association’s part to try to get everything even… There’s so many schools from (the North) that could possibly be in that division, but is that fair for some of those southern schools, knowing that one of those northern schools has to join the (South) when they should be in the northern Maine division?”

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