By Greg Carey
PARKERSBURG — The landscape of West Virginia high school basketball could change significantly as the state athletics commission proposes adding a fourth classification in 2021.
The proposal is a two-year test run for basketball only, said Bernie Dolan, executive director of the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission.
“There was some hesitation to completely turn every sport upside down until we see how this plays out,” Dolan said. “We have an opportunity to check it after two years and see if it looks like it’s fair.”
A vote will be held April 2 by the SSAC Board of Control, and if passed, the measure would be sent to the state’s Board of Education.
Dolan confirmed four of the eight Class A private schools would likely move up to larger classes: Charleston Catholic, Notre Dame, Saint Joseph Central and Wheeling Central Catholic.
Remaining in Class A would be Greater Beckley Christian, Madonna, Parkersburg Catholic and Trinity.
“Depending on how the numbers wash out in a year, we’re not sure who’s going to go up or down, but it is not moving everybody wholesale up just because you’re a private school,” Dolan said. “I feel there are definite advantages to being a private school, because you’re in a city and there’s lots of access to both people as well as facilities. We just tried to put a number on that that we thought was fair to try to balance it.”
Saint Joseph Central’s girls basketball team won its ninth Class A championship in the last 11 years over the weekend. Fifteen of the last 17 Class A champions in boys basketball are private schools, including a stretch from 2002-2012 where a private school won the title 11 straight seasons. Wheeling Central’s boys basketball program has won eight Class A titles since 2002.
“I’ve always argued that in our classification system our private schools have advantages, not because they’re private, but where they’re located,” Dolan said. “Through a number of meetings we’ve had in our Competitive Balance Committee, we tried to put a number on what that balance should be.”
Through the proposal, each school would have a score from 1-100 that weighs several factors.
Dolan said 70 percent of your score would come from enrollment and 20 percent from location [whether it’s location to a city or county seat]. The last 10 percent is a combination of the economics of the county and students enrolled.
“All those things get all mashed together, there’s a calculation and then it puts the schools in numerical order, and we simply will divide those into four classes just for basketball.”
The Competitive Balance Committee consists of 18 people — five principals or athletic directors from the three current classes, and three members of the WVSSAC Board of Directors. Representatives from public and private schools formed the proposal.
The court classification, which Dolan believes has a “good chance” to pass, could have a major affect on public schools.
“There are public school members who are going to move up also, and they’re probably not happy about it,” Dolan said. “It’s not we just move private schools. There are other ones that are moving up, because they have those same advantages of location and of economics in their town as well as in their school.”
The basketball state tournament currently runs Wednesday through Saturday, with eight participants from each of the three classes, Under a four-class system, Dolan said play would start with six additional games Tuesday.