Prep sports: Robinson dropping classification, joining SPC

Published 7:54 pm Thursday, December 4, 2014

The already large South Piedmont Conference is gaining another member.

An appeal to the N.C. High School Athletic Association by Jay M. Robinson to move from 4A to 3A was approved by the association’s board of directors. The SPC, starting in the 2015-16 school year, is Robinson’s new home after two years in the Mecka 4A. The 3A league, which is teams from Rowan and Cabarrus counties, is now made up of 10 teams.

Robinson’s appeal is one of two granted by the board. The other is Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons, a private school, moving from 3A to 4A.

“They don’t do it very often. So I don’t know what (the association’s) thinking is,” said Sandy Torrence, SPC commissioner. “They told South Rowan and West Iredell not to bother, but they let Robinson and Cardinal Gibbons move.”

The association aligns conferences every four years, but it allows schools to appeal after two years.

Torrence is also the commissioner for the North Piedmont Conference, a 3A/4A split league made up of teams from Iredell, Lincoln and Alexander counties. South Rowan and West Iredell are two of the three smallest schools in the 3A ranks. According to the state association’s enrollment numbers released before the football playoffs, there are 18 schools in the 2A classification with larger ADMs than South Rowan and West Iredell.

Robinson has the second-largest number of students among current SPC members.

There is also the logistical side of bringing in a new member. Football teams will have to drop a non-conference game in order to accommodate a nine-game conference schedule.

It also raises the level of pressure to win conference games.

“It’s already a large league,” West Rowan head coach Scott Young said. “One more game counts in your conference schedule, so if you have one of night, and you’re put behind the 8-ball.”

For the 10-team league to work in basketball, baseball, softball and soccer, teams will wind up playing three conference games some weeks to make sure everyone gets a home-and-home with a league opponent. Torrence said she and the athletic directors are meeting Monday to discuss schedule changes.

“Other than that, it’s going to work out all right,” she said.

Spring football practice changes

Football teams across the state now have 10 days of skill development sessions with a full squad “immediately prior to the final five days of the school year,” the association said in a press release. Practices can last no more than two-and-a-half hours, including the warm-up and cool down, and are limited to Monday through Friday. Saturday can be used as a make-up day.

No contact is allowed during these sessions, an athletic trainer must be there and any athlete participating in a spring sport that is still active cannot practice with the football team.

“I don’t like it a bit,” Young said. “We had a lot of success developing kids the way we developed kids in the past decade or so.”

The old system allowed players and coaches to meet in the offseason for skill development as long as no more than 21 players were on the field on any given day. Players and coaches are still allowed to meet for weight training and conditioning sessions.

East Rowan head coach Kenneth McClamrock is on board with the changes, but he is curious about time in a classroom setting.

“The big question I have is what do we do as far as classroom time goes,” he said. “Because to me classroom time is equally important as that (on-field) stuff.

“Hopefully, it’s a step in the right direction for North Carolina football. If we can still do classroom (instruction) and still do agility and lifting, then I think it’s a step forward.”

This change goes into effect Monday.

Other items

For playoffs and automatic qualifiers, the association tweaked the bracketed playoff qualifying process for teams from a split league. Teams that gain the No. 2 seed from their league need an overall winning percentage of 34 percent or higher to gain an automatic bid to the postseason.

Cross country and track and field are now allowed to have split squads.

The state track and field championships for all classifications are now scheduled for the same weekend.