Another state championship weekend provided more evidence of the unequal and unfair playing field in the 1A division.
Nontraditional programs dominated the basketball state finals, continuing a trend that has been going on for nearly 20 years.
Wilson Prep earned an 84-73 win over Eastern Randolph in the boys 1A championship, and Bishop McGuiness took a 73-43 victory over Chatham Charter in the girls state title game.
These nontraditional programs are defined as metropolitan charter and magnet public schools and non-boarding parochial private schools that don’t necessarily adhere to strict district lines like traditional schools in rural, small towns.
These schools haven’t just won in some sports – they’ve dominated, effectively eliminating any chance that a traditional program can even compete at the state championship level.
Basketball is a prime example.
On the boys side, nontraditionals have won seven of the last eight state championships, as well as 10 of the last 12 and 12 of the last 16.
Five of the last eight state finals have been all-nontraditional matchups.
On the girls side, nontraditionals have won 13 of the last 18, including 11 in a row at one point.
Most nontraditional athletic programs have been around for about 20 years, so their rate of winning state titles is rather eye-opening.
Their speed in collecting these state championships is even more alarming.
Wilson Prep has captured two state crowns in six years as a program.
Henderson Collegiate was in its fourth year when it won it all on the boys side in 2020.
Winston-Salem Prep racked up five rings on the boys side and two on the girls side in its first 12 years as a program.
These nontraditional programs make winning a state title look easy.
It is not. Just ask a traditional 1A program.
Many of those schools in rural, small towns have been around for more than 50 years and are lucky to have one, if any state championships.
East Carteret has been around for almost 60 years, Jones Senior was established more than 60 years ago, and Pamlico is over 70 years old.
And each of them has one basketball state title to its name.
Unfortunately, basketball isn’t the only sport affected by this issue.
Soccer is also dominated by nontraditionals.
They’ve taken nine state titles in a row on the girls side and 10 of the last 11. The last seven and eight of the last nine have been all-nontraditional matchups.
On the boys side, they’ve won six in a row and seven of the last eight. Six of the past eight have been all-nontraditional matchups.
Then there is tennis.
Nontraditionals have won seven in a row on the boys side with all seven finals being all-nontraditional matchups. On the girls side, they’ve taken six of the last eight with four of those finals being all-nontraditional matchups.
In cross country, nontraditionals have won 10 of the last 12 on the girls side and eight of the last 11 on the boys side.
Nontraditionals have also taken seven in a row in volleyball with the last three finals being all-nontraditional matchups, and have taken nine of the last 11 in boys golf.
The N.C. High School Athletic Association recently released language for a proposed bylaw amendment that would overhaul the way the organization structures its classification system.
If it passes, the number of classifications would be determined by the average daily membership (ADM) of each school and based on the total number of the association’s member schools. No classification would be allowed to have more than 64 schools. Based on the current number of schools in the NCHSAA, it would require the association to move to seven classifications for the 2025-2026 school year.
Nontraditional programs would make up more than half of the 1A division in this classification system.
It’s unfair to make schools in places like Beaufort, Trenton, Bayboro, Pinetown, Chocowinity, Weldon, Williamston, Bertie and Tarboro to compete with schools in Raleigh, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Rocky Mount and Wilson.
If these nontraditional schools are different from traditional schools from an educational perspective – if they weren’t different, they wouldn’t exist – then why aren’t they treated any different from an athletic perspective?
No rural, small-town traditional school should have to compete with a metropolitan school that can pull in student-athletes from a 25-mile radius that includes multiple counties and hundreds of thousands in population.
It’s apples versus oranges.
It’s well past time to give these programs their own classification. Let them compete against each other for state titles. They do already anyway.
This can finally be made right. Now seems as good of a time as any.
(Send comments or questions to email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @jjsmithccnt.)
East would have likely had 3 titles if not having to play these schools
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