MHSAA adds seventh classification to its alignment

Published 2:37 pm Thursday, April 7, 2022

The Mississippi High School Activities Association is getting a little bit larger.

The MHSAA’s executive committee on Thursday voted to add a seventh classification and reset how the number of schools in each class will be determined.

The new Class 7A will include the top 24 schools based on enrollment. Class 6A will have Nos. 25-48, and Class 5A Nos. 49-72. Classes 4A, 3A and 2A will have 40 schools apiece, and Class 1A will include the smallest remaining schools.
Currently, Classes 5A and 6A contain 32 schools apiece.

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The new plan will go into effect with the 2023-25 enrollment cycle, and the new class and region assignments will be released in the fall.

In a release, the MHSAA said it had several goals with the new classification plan, ranging from competitive balance to easing travel and providing greater flexibility in scheduling.

The new alignment will have four six-team regions in Classes 5A through 7A, rather than the current setup of eight-team regions for football and four-team regions for other sports. Classes 1A through 4A will have eight regions of five teams each.

The top four teams in each region will qualify for the playoffs in all sports. For sports other than football, the new plan calls for a region tournament to determine the qualifiers for the state playoffs.

In football, the new alignment will free up two dates for non-region games or bye weeks.

“For the past two years I haven’t had the opportunity to choose my own schedule, because we already have two that are locked in as far as the Red Carpet Bowl and Warren Central,” Vicksburg High football coach Todd McDaniel said. “It’ll give me an opportunity to find two or three teams that we can reach out and play.”

One of the biggest reasons for the move was to create better competitive balance by lessening the gap between the largest and smallest schools in each classification. In the current Class 5A, that number is 879 students. In the new Class 6A it will be 353. The gap in the new Class 5A will go from 347 to 225 students.

Although the bigger schools do enjoy a potential advantage by having more students to choose from, McDaniel said the quality of a program has more to do with success than the quantity of its student body.

“I had two or three teams at Hazlehurst that could have beaten anybody and they’re 3A. So it doesn’t matter,” McDaniel said.

Warren Central football head coach Josh Morgan agreed with his counterpart across town.

“There is a definite advantage with having an extra 400 or 500. Some of the discrepancy there is almost a whole 5A school. I think there’s something to that,” Morgan said. “I also think some of these programs, when you have a good culture and a tradition-rich program that your community is behind it can trump a lot of that. I don’t know if it’s overblown, but you can get around it.”

It’s unclear at the moment which classification Warren Central and Vicksburg will end up in when the new alignment is released later this year.

Based off of enrollment numbers from the current reclassification cycle, Warren Central would be in Class 7A — but just barely. It had 1,242 students the last time the numbers were calculated in 2021, which would put it just 30 above the cutline for Class 6A.

Based off of the 2021 numbers, Warren Central would be the 22nd-largest school in the new Class 7A. Tupelo is the biggest at 1,907 students. Lewisburg would be the largest in the new Class 6A, with 1,212 students.

Depending on how the enrollment numbers are calculated — some models include grades 9-11, others 10-12, and others 9-12 — Warren Central could find itself either on the very low end of Class 7A or the high end of Class 6A.

“I think we’re going to be right there on that line,” Morgan said. “From possible numbers it’s hard to tell. A lot can happen between here and then, but we’re going to be close to that line.”

Vicksburg, meanwhile, had 802 students in the 2021 enrollment count and would be the eighth-largest school in the new Class 5A based off of those numbers. Ridgeland would be the largest at 857, and the smallest Class 6A member would be Gautier at 865.

Depending upon how the new numbers are calculated and enrollment trends over the past couple of years, Vicksburg could range anywhere from a large 5A to a large Class 4A school. The smallest member of Class 5A based off of the 2021 enrollment numbers would be Clarksdale, at 631 students.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 139-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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