BOE approves four-class proposal in basketball

Program is a two-year test starting in 20-21

PARKERSBURG — Following the 2019-2020 high school boys’ and girls’ basketball seasons, the hardwood sport will add a fourth class for the next two seasons. The passage of a West Virginia Secondary Sports Activities Commission proposal by the State Board of Education Wednesday afternoon in Charleston set the testing process in motion.

The decision came after the required 30-day comment period. The 123 public comments received included 83 opposed, 32 affirmations and three neutral.

The proposal sits in the Secretary of State’s Office for 60 days before becoming official in mid-September.

“We are pleased our principals were listened to,” said WVSSAC Assistant Executive Director Wayne Ryan via phone call Wednesday afternoon. “They voted overwhelmingly for it and if support was that strong it is something worth taking a look at and the passing allows us (the SSAC) to do that.”

Implementation of the program waits until 2020-21 as the WVSSAC collects numbers for the reclassification process every four years. Current figures won’t be released until Oct. 1.

Classification of all schools will be based on a score from 1-100 determined by a number of factors: 70 percent from enrollment, 20 percent from location to a city or county seat, and 10 percent is a combination of the economics of the county and the students enrolled.

Board members Debra Sullivan and Dr. Daniel Snavely dissented to adopt the pilot program in the 7-2 vote. Sullivan, a former principal of Charleston Catholic, spoke out against the proposal before Wednesday’s decision.

“Do you realize how many schools overlapped in each category? I took actual enrollment scores, not scale enrollment scores,” Sullivan said to Dolan according to wvmetronews.com reporter Greg Carey. “There’s a lot of overlap going on there. This formula is very complicated to say the least.

“People have to believe they’re being treated fairly. An enrollment number is a number people can get their minds around. But when you talk about scale scored on distance to a courthouse, I think you have a lot of appeals based on this formula. I’m not a statistician, but I’m not confident in the formula. A lot of it will be seen as hocus-pocus.”

Private schools likely will be split evenly between the bottom two classes.

These institutions captured 24 of the last 29 state titles combined between boys and girls basketball. Saint Joseph Central’s girls basketball team won its ninth Class A championship in the past 11 years. Wheeling Central boys have captured eight championships since 2002.

St. Marys girls’ basketball coach Howie Meeks, whose teams fell to St. Joe in the 2010, 2011, 13 and 14 state title games, applauded the passage.

“I believe the amount of people that worked on this proposal in the committee (around 50 or 60) and with the leadership of the WVSSAC warrants this being tried for a few years,” said Meeks. “If it doesn’t achieve its goals it can always be changed or adapted. I am glad we have the opportunity for a couple of years.”

St. Marys, named the third-least populous county in the state during the 2010 census (7,605 residents), believes it will stay in Class A.

Under the new proposal Parkersburg and Parkersburg South High Schools would likely remain in the top classification, based on the population of the city and the schools’ enrollment numbers. Parkersburg also is the seat of Wood County.

Williamstown girls’ basketball coach Fred Sauro confirmed the Yellowjackets would step up to Class AA.

Parkersburg Catholic’ boys basketball coach Rob Strcula, whose Crusaders lost to Webster County in the 2019 Class A title game, should stay in Class A. Strcula doesn’t think their will be much change to how the PC plans its season.

“I don’t really think it affects us too much as what we will do scheduling wise,” said Strcula. “I am not sure it is the right answer but it is worth trying. We are going to be competitive no matter what class we are in.”

WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan provided a simple exit strategy in case of a failed attempt.

“If we exit out of this, everybody goes to their original class because that’s what they’ll be in for the other sports, so it’s an easy fallback,” he said at Wednesday’s meeting. “Another judge of if this works will be do the people come out to watch in Charleston? I’m betting they’ll want to support their community.”

Joe Albright can be reached at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com

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