Schools ponder proposals

A proposal eliminating blended conferences in Class 7A and 6A and another that would limit full contact in football to three days during the week, which includes games, are among the changes being considered by the governing body of the Arkansas Activities Asscoation at its annual meeting Wednesday at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.

Under the current system, Class 7A and Class 6A teams play each other during conference play before splitting into their appropriate classifications for the playoffs.

Class 6A members voted in 2011 to send all 16 of their members to the postseason in football, but Class 7A uses a power-rating system and sends only 12 of its 16 football teams to the postseason.

The 2011 decision adopted by Class 6A schools eliminated first-round byes, but it led to other issues such as many teams with losing records advancing to the state playoffs. Eight of the 16 teams that played in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs last season had records below .500. Two of those teams -- Little Rock Hall (0-9) and Mountain Home (0-10) -- didn't win a game.

The new proposal calls for two eight-team football conferences in both Class 7A and Class 6A, with the top four teams from each conference advancing to the playoffs. If the proposal passes, it would return the football playoffs to the traditional format in place before the 2012-2014 AAA cycle.

"If we're going to be 6A, let's play 6A," Russellville Coach Jeff Holt said. "It's not that we don't mind playing 7A, but you've got such mixed conferences. You've got some playing a bunch of 6A and then some 7A schools, and then some playing a bunch of 6A schools, the way the conferences are mixed up.

"You can't do it evenly, so let's forget about the travel. Let's put them all in 6A, and 7A in 7A, and go."

Under the new proposal, Class 7A schools will only face other Class 7A members in conference play in basketball, baseball and softball.

Class 6A and Class 5A would combine for conference play in those sports before splitting into their appropriate classifications for the state playoffs. Classes 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A also would combine for conference play and split into their appropriate classifications for the state playoffs.

The player safety proposal would reduce full contact in football practices, and full contact would be limited to three days during the week, including games. The window would be six days before the first regular-season game through the state finals.

West Memphis Coach Billy Elmore, who serves as a master trainer for USA Football, said the amount of contact each team has is up to the coaches under the current regulations.

"We don't ever really practice in full pads," Elmore said. "I think we're in the majority. We're not just beating on each other. I think the days of that are probably over.

"You've got to be able to find a way to practice and limit contact. Once the season starts, basically, we're hardly ever in pads."

Sports on 08/03/2014

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