Black­hawks leave 4A-3A-1 Con­fer­ence af­ter this week

Go­ing back to re­vamped 4A-1

The Times (Northeast Benton County) - - SPORTS - JOHN MCGEE Spe­cial to The TIMES

This week marks the last com­pe­ti­tion for bas­ket­ball in the blended 4A-3A-1 Con­fer­ence. The cur­rent con­fer­ence af­fil­i­a­tion, the brain­child of the Arkansas Ac­tiv­i­ties As­so­ci­a­tion, will die a mer­ci­ful death af­ter Fri­day.

The Black­hawks’ foot­ball team plays and has played in the 4A-1 Con­fer­ence with Prairie Grove, Gravette, Lin­coln, Ber­ryville, Gen­try, Huntsville and pri­vate school Shiloh. All the other sports like bas­ket­ball, vol­ley­ball, softball and base­ball were placed into blended con­fer­ences com­posed of 4A and 3A schools. It was sup­posed to have en­hanced gate rev­enue and de­creased travel. It failed on both counts, hence the end of the ex­per­i­ment.

The foot­ball con­fer­ence will re­main mostly in­tact for the next cou­ple of years with the new cy­cle be­gin­ning next year. The only change was that Huntsville will be mov­ing up to 5A foot­ball next year with Green For­est mov­ing into the Ea­gles’ place in the 4A-1. Green For­est has fi­nally out­grown their long­time 3A sta­tus, hav­ing five more stu­dents than Booneville, al­low­ing the Bearcats to slip down into 3A. The only school smaller in the 4A is Har­mony Grove which has two less than Green For­est.

Next year’s “other sports” align­ments have had some ma­jor re­work done. The Arkansas Ac­tiv­i­ties As­so­ci­a­tion has de­cided to do away with the 7A in all sports ex­cept foot­ball. Why the ex­cep­tion? Money. Foot­ball is the big­gest rev­enue pro­ducer for the AAA and hav­ing less games would mean hav­ing less money. The AAA gets the gate re­ceipts for the play­offs.

As far as it af­fects Pea Ridge bas­ket­ball, next year’s 4A class will in­clude the lower half of the 5A class be­ing moved into the 4A, with the lower half of the 4A be­ing moved into the 3A. The bot­tom classes will be di­vided equally into the 3A, 2A and 1A group­ings.

The good news for Huntsville is that they thought they would mov­ing to 5A next year, but they will stay in the 4A-1. Lin­coln will be moved down into the 3A class. The new schools mov­ing into the 4A-1 will be Farm­ing­ton and Har­ri­son, giv­ing the district nine teams.

The usual line-up for con­fer­ences used to be eight teams per con­fer­ence with two con­fer­ences mak­ing up re­gions. That is now gone as there will be nine schools in two dis­tricts, eight schools in two dis­tricts, and seven schools in two dis­tricts. There will be 17 schools in the North Re­gion and East Re­gions but only 15 schools in the South.

There are six dis­tricts in the 4A, be­ing the 4A-1, 4A-2, 4A-3, 4A-4, 4A-7 and 4A-8. Why is there no 4A-5 or 4A-6 district? Who knows?!

The 4A-4 District will cer­tainly be hav­ing some up­grades, pick­ing up sports power Mo­rill­ton, past state cham­pion Clarksville, and solid He­ber Springs. The 4A-4 lost Booneville, Wal­dron and West Fork.

In the most re­cent count, Pea Ridge was cred­ited with hav­ing 456 stu­dents, mak­ing it the sixth big­gest 4A school in the state, at least in foot­ball. They are ranked the 21st big­gest school in the “other sports” like bas­ket­ball and base­ball with this new way of fig­ur­ing things.

While Pea Ridge is the sixth big­gest school in the state in foot­ball, they are only the fourth big­gest in the district in that sport. In bas­ket­ball and the other sports, they will be the sev­enth big­gest out of the nine con­fer­ence mem­bers. The Top 10 schools in the state in 4A are 1. Wil­bur Mills (497),

2. Mon­ti­cello (495), 3. Ber­ryville (486), 4. Prairie Grove (469), 5. Gravette (464), 6. Pea Ridge (456),

7. Brook­land (453), 8. Ham­burg (451), 9. Poc­a­hon­tas (446) and 10. Dar­danelle (440).

I get a lot of folks ask­ing me when or if Pea Ridge is head­ing for a 5A clas­si­fi­ca­tion. We are roughly 50 stu­dents away from be­ing among the smaller schools in 5A foot­ball, and in bas­ket­ball we are about 110 stu­dents away from the higher class.

With all the build­ing go­ing on, it is a bet­ter then even chance that the ’Hawks will en­ter 5A foot­ball in the fall of 2020. The other sports? It will be awhile.

Of course, the way the AAA changes things, who knows. They may add an­other class, take out an­other class, re­ar­range the dis­tricts, or just change some­thing.

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