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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.

Sports on 02/07/2018

Print Headline: Blackhawks leave 4A-3A-1 Conference after this week

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