Performance-based classification could be coming to Maine high school basketball, based on two new proposals offered to the Maine Principals’ Association’s Classification Committee Tuesday.

The proposals, put forward by representatives from the Basketball Committee, would allow teams to move down and remain playoff eligible after a string of poor seasons. One proposal is for four classes – A, B, C and D – dropping teams with winning percentages of 25% or less over the last four seasons down a class, with those teams having the option to petition to remain in the higher class. The other allows for the same flexibility, but would stick with the current five-class setup.

The proposals would consider teams’ winning percentages for the 2018-19, 2019-20, 2021-22 and current 2022-23 seasons, excluding the pandemic winter of 2020-21, and will allow for boys’ and girls’ teams to be classified separately. The proposals will be voted on at the next Classification Committee meeting March 6.

“We’re talking about something that is uncharted territory, other than football, (for) schools that have a lack of success for one program or the other to be able to move down,” MPA assistant executive director Mike Bisson said. “The big part of this is that we separate boys’ and girls’ classification, which has scheduling implications and so on. It certainly wasn’t a unanimous agreement, but we have some direction.”

The proposal would allow for the scenario of a school having its boys’ and girls’ teams in different classes.

“I like (that) idea,” South Portland Athletic Director Todd Livingston said. “They’re different programs. Just because one of your genders is really successful, it doesn’t necessarily mean the other one is on par with that.”


The committee didn’t share what the enrollment cutoffs would be for each class in either the four-class or five-class proposal. “Those will need to be redone based on including this past season’s records. It will be a couple of days before that is complete,” MPA Executive Director Mike Burnham wrote in an email.

Maine high school basketball’s classification status for next season has been in flux since a proposal from the Basketball Committee to go to Classes A, B, C and D with a smaller, one-region Class S was rejected by the Classification Committee on Jan. 19.

Kennebunk Athletic Director Joe Schwartzman, a member of the 10-person committee, said the idea of schools being able to drop in class based on performance had been suggested at prior meetings before being discussed in detail Tuesday.

“Looking at the five-year history was important, because those programs are really struggling,” Schwartzman said. “We felt like it was a good alternative, especially if we went to four or five classes, just to give those teams the ability to be competitive.”

The proposals were announced after a closed discussion period that ran nearly an hour and a half.

“When you start introducing something like applying down, people have to wrap their heads around it,” Bisson said.


Schwartzman said the time until March 6 will be used to determine what schools would fall into each class.

“I think it’s to solidify the cutoff numbers in the four-class model versus the five-class model,” he said, “and gathering the data from this season for the overall five-year record for them to be under 25% … and then seeing who and how it’s affecting. If there are two AA teams that would move down, that’s going to affect the way AA is.”

Livingston said he hopes that if either of the proposals gets approved, it doesn’t leave small schools in an unfair position.

“(An enrollment of) 40 competing with 250 is much different than 750 competing with 1,200 (or) 1,300,” he said.

Greely girls’ basketball coach Todd Flaherty said he preferred the four-class system to the five-class. The current five-class setup has 17 teams split into two regions in Class AA.

“I think AA’s been getting the short end of the stick since we made the change,” he said. “I like the four classes, I think it makes the regular season worth a little bit more. It’s a little bit harder to get into the tournament because you have bigger groups, so I like that. AA, it’s tough when you consider Hampden and Bangor having to cruise down (to southern Maine) to play half their schedule.”


Flaherty also said he likes that struggling teams would have a chance to gain their footing in a lower class. The two-time Class A champion and three-time finalist at Greely has been on both ends of the competitive spectrum, having coached an 0-18 Morse boys’ team in 2010-11.

“It’s a tough task to climb out of it when you’re just getting stomped on every night,” Flaherty said. “It’s hard to keep the kids upbeat and moving forward. I definitely can commiserate with those programs.”

Chris Casterella, whose Cape Elizabeth girls’ team went 4-14 with a roster of only nine available players, said being able to drop down without losing postseason status could help struggling teams maintain their turnout numbers.

“Winning usually breeds success in programs, just in terms of kids want to play on winning programs,” she said. “They see what’s going on ahead of them and I think it can help draw kids. Isn’t that what we should all want, is to have enough success that it draws kids to continue to play or decide to play?”

Cony Athletic Director T.J. Maines, the Rams’ former boys’ basketball coach, said scheduling will need to change for teams dropping down to fully benefit.

“You have to open up the (conference) scheduling if you’re going to do this, to give it a real chance. Otherwise, why are we doing it?” he said. “They’re just going to get pummeled by the same teams they’ve been playing.”

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