VHSL's latest realignment proposal well-intended but flawed

My inbox overfloweth, courtesy of college sports' annual July 1 conference realignment celebrations. Louisville to the ACC; Elon to the Colonial Athletic Association; Davidson to the Atlantic 10; East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa to the American Athletic; Western Kentucky to Conference USA; Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten.

And, drumroll please, in the most unlikely foursome of all-time: Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Idaho and New Mexico State to the Sun Belt. Good luck Google mapping a route from Boone, N.C., to Moscow, Idaho.

The new groupings are as baffling as 11th-grade trigonometry, Middle East diplomacy and Virginia High School League reclassification.

Yes, in a blatant attempt to secure overtime for bus drivers, the VHSL has released the latest in what could become — heaven forbid — biennial adjustments to the classes and conferences upon which postseason competition in based.

Feel free to scream aloud, pull your hair and/or sob in the fetal position.

Detailed in Tuesday's Daily Press by comrades Johnson and O'Brien, the current proposal is open to appeal through Aug. 4. But approval is virtually certain, with the new alignment set to debut in 2015-16 and affecting, directly or indirectly, every public school in our coverage area.

Think about that. No local school, none, will compete in a conference that is identical to its current incarnation. Seven from the Bay Rivers District — Grafton, Jamestown, Lafayette, Poquoson, Smithfield, Tabb and York — will move to new conferences and/or classes. The Peninsula District's Bethel, Kecoughtan and Phoebus also will shift.

All of this is rooted in the VHSL's well-intended but oh-so-flawed efforts to create a level postseason playing field based on enrollment and to award more state championships — three per sport were plenty, thank you very much.

But in life, and sports, level playing fields are a myth. The Yankees have more money than the Royals, Florida State has more students than Duke, and Woodside has more students than Phoebus. Get over it and move on. Phoebus certainly did when the Phantoms dominated state football despite a smaller student body that many opponents.

Moreover, high school sports are above youth leagues. We don't need orange slices and trophies for everyone.

To their enduring credit, Bay Rivers schools partially insulated themselves from this foolishness by continuing to build regular-season schedules around their traditional, geographically sensible districts. Playoff pairings and travel are messy, but it could be worse.

Why, if Bruton High in York County played a steady diet of Conference 33 schools such as Arcadia, Nandua and King William, its teams would spend more time in transit than in history class.

Conversely, Peninsula District schools cannon-balled into the conference pool, abandoning, with the exception of football, district competition. So in 2013-14 and 2014-15, each of the PD's 10 members were/are in gerrymandered conferences with schools from across the water.

The proposal for 2015-16 and 2016-17 is even worse, witness Woodside High in northern Newport News being grouped solely with schools from Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. Never mind that there are four other public high schools in Newport News and four in neighboring Hampton.

People, people, people! Students are far more interested in competing against, or watching classmates compete against, nearby teams, regardless of enrollment.

As college athletic directors stew over declining student crowds, there's no denying that many arrive on their campuses less-inclined to attend. For varied reasons, they weren't drawn to high school games, and now the VHSL is providing even less incentive.

The VHSL's incessant meddling also dooms any chance of creating new rivalries in these tortured conferences. For example, Phoebus last year joined a conference that included new colleagues King's Fork, Lakeland and Nansemond River, each from Suffolk. Next year, the Phantoms are set to say farewell to all but Lakeland, while welcoming Poquoson, Tabb, York, Portsmouth's Norcom and Norfolk's Booker T. Washington.

And it's not just students, athletes, parents and fans being disserviced. Pity the poor high school athletic directors. As if they aren't burdened with enough paperwork and logistics.

New conferences require new handbooks, officers, bank accounts, travel plans, schedules and budgets. Such change every two years is enough to push an AD into an even more harrowing line of work: driver's ed.

David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP.

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