The Locker Room
By Dan Callahan
It’s actually very much a return to the past, but the region setup for the Virginia High School League is about to undergo a huge change for the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. Instead of the state being split in half to form two regions in each of the six classifications, there will once again be four regions in each of the six classifications which remain the same. They will just be referred to as Classes 1-2-3-4-5-6, and not Divisions. This means there will be 24 total regions.
Pulaski County will remain what was referred to as Division 4, but is now Class 4. While its classification has not changed, much of the rest has. The Cougars will be a member of “Region D” in Class 4. There are also Regions A, B, and C in Class 4. In Class 4, Region A is the East, primarily Peninsula area, Region B is the northern area, Region C is the central part of the state, and Region D stretches south from Charlottesville to Pulaski County and Carroll County. The new setup will be in effect when school doors reopen in August. The present school term expires in Pulaski County, May 24.
Eight teams will qualify by virtue of a strong enough power rating for the playoffs in football. But Class 4, Region D is a bit different from a year ago, and certainly appears to be very strong. Along with Pulaski County, the rest of Region D will consist of Amherst, Bassett, Blacksburg, William Byrd, Carroll, Charlottesville, E.C. Glass, Jefferson Forest, Liberty Christian Academy, Salem, and GW-Danville. Obviously, there will be no cakewalk to the playoffs.
The Cougars schedule would appear to be setup for a good chance to qualify for playoffs with a good season. In Class 4 Region D, the Cougars will play Salem, Blacksburg, and Carroll. The Cougars will also play up twice when they face Class 5, Region D members Patrick Henry and William Fleming. The remainder of Pulaski County’s schedule comes out of Class 3, Region D; Abingdon, Cave Spring, Christiansburg, Hidden Valley, and Northside.
Two obvious changes are Blacksburg and William Byrd. Both are now Class 4, Region D members because of increased enrollment. The River Ridge District remains the same and continues to be Pulaski County’s base for scheduling; Blacksburg, Cave Spring, Christiansburg, PH, Hidden Valley, Salem, and the Cougars.
In other classes and regions of interest to the area Class C, Region C will have Fort Chiswell, Giles, Radford, and Floyd as members. In Class 1, Region C, Auburn, Galax, and George Wythe will be members.
I believe the new setup is better. If you have followed Cougar football over the years, you remember the regional setup, and regardless of classification, when playoffs began the regions were setup with a contingent of schools from the east, north, central, and south, and Pulaski County has in some way been associated with the southern portion of the state ever since it opened its doors in 1974. In fact, all of its years as a member of the old Division 6, or Division 5 classification, Pulaski County was the southernmost school in that class in the state.
The only difference is now the Cougars are Class 4, and not higher. The reason for that is enrollment, but the same can be said for Danville, Amherst, E.C. Glass, and Salem. Which is an excellent reason for a new middle school. We no longer need two middle schools. Pulaski County needs to put all its middle school students at the same location, a new location, and not remain in old outdated facilities.
I also liked the way the VHSL went about its business in the new classification setup. It wasn’t just a simple committee of people that made the decision and if you didn’t like it, tough. Much information was sought. There was an “Alignment Survey” and every principal and athletic director at every school had a yes or no vote opportunity on the main issues in every classification.
For instance, 80 percent of the schools voted to remain in the same district, 90 percent of the schools voted to remain in the same region, and in what I would call a hallelujah decision, 72 percent of the membership voted to make the new classification alignment a four-year agreement, and not two. I do not understand why it wasn’t at least a 90 percent yes vote on this issue. One of the biggest problems with the VHSL, if not the biggest, over the past 12 to 15 years has been the constant change in districts, regions, and classifications.
It has damaged the fan bases of schools across the state. Fans don’t who which games are the most important, and do not understand which are of the greatest significance. Now that situation should change with the new four-year agreement. I have not always felt this way, but this was a good job by the Virginia High School League. I like the six new classes, and the four region setup in each classification. It’s more like it used to be. Bravo! A job and change well done.