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Gastonia and Shelby region coaches discuss NCHSAA’s planned 8-class system

Change is coming at the NCHSAA.

Last year, the organization’s board of directors approved a plan to expand from four classifications to eight, which would take effect at the start of the 2025-2026 school year. At a recent meeting of NCHSAA board members, progress was made toward adopting a “Big 32” model, which would put the state’s 32 largest schools into one class.

While no schools in Cleveland, Gaston and Lincoln counties will be part of the state’s largest classification, coaches and athletic directors understand they are on the cusp of a new normal.

We granted local baseball and softball coaches anonymity and asked them several questions in a series called “Coaches Confidential,” allowing them to share their perspectives on a range of topics impacting high school athletics. Today’s questions: What do you think about the NCHSAA’s upcoming expansion to eight classifications? What effect do you think it will have on high school baseball and softball?

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Coaches in Cleveland, Gaston and Lincoln counties received an email asking them to submit their answers. Here are their responses.

A disaster in the making

“Dislike; too many ratings.”

“I think it’s great for football, but not great in any other sport. It will make class sizes too small and only fuel the ‘everyone is a winner and gets a trophy’ mentality.

“Disaster. Football coaches dominate this decision, along with charter schools that somehow influence our politicians. No one cares what is best for communities and rivalries anymore!”

“It’s going to make scheduling non-conferences even more difficult than it already is.”

Cautiously optimistic

“I think it’s already way too late. Concerned about the (athletic director) route how long this process will take. What are they going to do about charter and parochial schools? What are they going to do with non-football schools etc.? Lots of questions, but I believe the NCHSAA is doing the right thing. I just worry that the small 1A and 2A schools are going to have to deal with charters that, like it or not, and they can write it 40 different ways, have no boundaries. It kills the small public school and begins to invade the larger schools.”

“Hopefully it will be useful, but I worry that so many classes will cause problems when the population inevitably changes.”

“(I’m) all for it. More competitive.”

“I’m curious to see how this affects the competition.”

“I’m looking forward to something new. I’m not sure if it will be a good thing or not, but I’m looking forward to seeing it in action.”

“I think this would give schools more opportunities to play after the season.”

“More opportunities for other schools to be successful if the playoffs are not split classes.”

“I think it’s a good thing. Baseball coaches are very adaptable.”

What’s in the details?

“I have a few questions about it: why do we need eight lessons? Why not five or six? How will school rankings be determined (because I’m not a fan of just using enrollment; I may be in the minority, but I like the current system that uses three different criteria)? How will conferences work as teams become more distributed? How many teams will advance to the play-offs? What does the play-off format look like?”

Business as usual

“Honestly, I don’t know exactly how this will impact baseball.”

“It will be interesting to see where everyone lines up and how conferences and classifications shape up.”

“I can’t do anything about the expansion – I just show up and coach. And that’s what I want to do.

“I don’t really know what to expect or how it will change the game.”