The Division Drop

In a first for the Catholic High Rockets in many years, the football and basketball teams have dropped a division, from 7A to 6A and from 6A to 5A respectively. This is due to the new “Competitive Equity Rule,” in which non-public schools must remain “overly competitive” to stay in their divisions.

The current design for divisions as set by the Arkansas Activities Association (AAA) includes the sixteen largest schools by enrollment in 7A for football, and 6A for all other sports. The next largest division is 6A in football and 5A for other sports, and contains the sixteen largest schools by enrollment not included in the 7A/6A.

Private schools are already elevated one classification over their public school counterparts. Now, private schools may move up another division if they gain ten “competitive balance points” over a four-year span. Additionally, a team may move down in a sport if they earn two or fewer points over the same four-year period. The system awards four points for a state championship, three points for a state runner-up, two for a playoff victory, and one point for a conference championship.

Due to the retroactive points system, the Rockets were moved from the highest to the second-highest division in basketball and football. No other sports have moved down. The Rocket football team now competes in the 6A East against teams such as Greene County Tech, Marion, and West Memphis. The Rocket basketball team moved down to the 5A Central, where it competes against teams such as Little Rock Parkview, Beebe, Vilonia, and Maumelle.

While the Rockets will be competing against schools with smaller enrollments, their opponents will not necessarily be easier to beat. “In all of the publications that have come out, most of the top ten teams are in the 6A division, which we are in now. Only three are in the 7A,” said Mr. Tim Ezzi, the athletic director at Catholic High.

The main advantage of competing in 6A in football or 5A in basketball is the smaller enrollment. “Bryant has over 2000 students, and so does Cabot, which is three or four times bigger than we are. Now, our opponents may only have an enrollment twice as large as us,” said Mr. Ezzi.

Mr. Richard Cochran, the defensive coordinator of the football team, believes that the resources of the 6A are more balanced among all sports, rather than the football-oriented 7A schools. “It’s almost like football has this gravitational pull in a school district that the other sports simply don’t have. In the 6A, we won’t have to go up against a football superpower every single weekend.”

The jury is still out on whether the division drop and the “Competitive Equity Rule” will be a benefit or a detriment to sports. “I think it’s a good test,” said Mr. Cochran. “I am interested to see what happens and to see what the AAA does. We loved playing in the 7A, but there is more parity in the 6A.”

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