The state football and basketball championships will be expanded starting next year if the legislative council of the Virginia High School League approves measures at its March 14 meeting in Harrisonburg.
The measures have already been given full support of the executive board.
The most radical change involves the football championships. Currently, four regional champions advance in each of three groups, AAA (total enrollment of 1,000 or more), AA (500-999) and A (499 and below), to semifinals with three state champions crowned.
If each group approves the current proposal, there would be two state champions at each level. The current tournament would continue to be decided among the four regional winners, but in an effort to compensate schools which are among the smallest in their particular group, there would also be a "lower division" tournament.
Each grouping would be divided in half between the largest and smallest schools. The teams with the best overall records in the smaller group would be eligible for lower division tournament play, unless they qualified for the regular tournament.
The system may sound a little complicated, but the Northern Region is a prime example of why the lower division tournament would have a purpose.
Every school in the Northern Region is AAA, except Group A George Mason. Some of those schools actually have total enrollments less than 1,000, and they are supposedly competing equally with larger schools like Robinson and Mount Vernon.
If the plan was in effect last year, eligible for selection to the lower divsion from the Northern Region would have been Marshall, McLean, Yorktown, Edison, Fairfax, Falls Church, Stuart, Jefferson and Wakefield.
However, it has yet to be decided whether the above schools would represent the Northern Region or if all the lower schools would be divided into a different regional alignment within the three groupings.
"Guys at large schools probably aren't interested in this, but smaller schools and schools with declining enrollments will be very interested," said Edison Coach Dennis Baughan, whose school, playing against much larger Gunston District schools, has not won a title in 16 years.
The state boys basketball tournament would expand from four to eight teams in each group, and the girls AAA and A would also grow if the legislative council passes another proposal.
The state boys tournament currently includes the four region champions. Under the proposed format, it would grow from four to eight teams, with the regional runners-up also included.
The girls AAA tournament features three regional winners and one runner-up (the Central Region plays girls basketball in the fall). The new setup would have six teams -- the regional winners and runners-up from each of the three regions now participating.
The boys tournament formerly had eight, and even 10, teams for many years, but in 1969, after discipline problems arose with one team at a hotel in Charlottesville during the tournament, the field was scaled back. The feeling cited was that the host cities were too crowded during tournament week and control too difficult.
"The tournament needs an infusion of interest," said Jenkins. "Last year, they had only 3,000 people at the state AAA finals (in Harrisonburg) in a state that produced players like Ralph Sampson and Moses Malone. That is a disgrace."