The creation of an all-6A South Conference in the Arkansas Activities Association makes the playing field look a little more level for schools like Pine Bluff and Sheridan.
But if I recall correctly, Bryant, the only 7A member the past two years, wasn’t that big of a threat in the major sports except baseball.
Still the new school year will refresh us with the usual questions of what should have become of all the AAA’s conferences. For most of them, they are what they should have been.
However, if it weren’t for the knowledge of the tradition that is the 7A-West, I would have blasted the alignment of Siloam Springs, which is southwest of Bentonville and northwest of Fayetteville, in the 7A/6A-Central.
Basically, there was no way to break up a league that includes three cities each with two schools and the two perennial powers in 7A without disrupting tradition. Bentonville and Fayetteville is the high-profile rivalry I didn’t see coming 20 years ago, keeping Fort Smith Northside and Southside together is a must, Springdale boasts rivalries with crosstown rival Har-Ber and Fayetteville, and Rogers cannot be separated from its brethren at Heritage.
Regionally, Siloam Springs belongs in that conference. If it weren’t for the importance of keeping an equal number of teams in each 7A and 6A league, the Panthers would be there.
Then, the same would be said for Greenwood and Van Buren, but that would leave the Central with six schools and the West with 10. Visits to those schools near the Arkansas River won’t hurt Siloam Springs on gas, but wait ‘til the dates with Bryant, Little Rock Catholic (and Mount St. Mary) and Conway.
Here in Southeast Arkansas, the conferencing crisis … well, isn’t that much of a crisis.
The 8-4A — Crossett, DeWitt, Dollarway, Dumas, Hamburg, Monticello, Star City and Warren — and 2-4A — Central Arkansas Christian, eStem (a non-football school), Heber Springs, Helena-West Helena Central, Lonoke, Newport, Riverview, Batesville Southside and Stuttgart — seem well-organized.
Really, given my experience in other states, these smaller conferences deserve names, like the “Southeast Arkansas Conference” for the 8-4A, “Eastern Rivers Conference” for the 2-4A and the “Timberlands League” for both the 6-3A and 8-2A football leagues. Most of the schools stay together for non-football conference play, so the names could still apply.
And the names would be a good reason for us to not have to refer to such a combination of numbers, letters and, sometimes, directions (the 7-2A East is an example).
Next week: A look at high school names that really aren’t, like Texarkana and Marianna. Nah, I’ll let you dissect all that on your own.
I.C. Murrell is the sports editor of The Commercial. Email him at email@example.com.