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Class AA-A soccer programs might split from AAA

by Shawn Yonker

SPORTS WRITER

For those people that are tired of seeing Class AAA schools breeze past lesser Class AA and A teams in the state high school soccer playoffs on a yearly basis, there may be relief coming. But not soon.

In two years, when the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission meets again on the topic, soccer could move to a class playoff structure.

"I think it would be a good idea," Bridgeport coach Ian McAra said. "Because the Class AAA schools so obviously dominate the soccer."

While most of the coaches in Harrison County would be for a change in the structure of the playoffs, it is the Indians and other Class AA schools in the state that would benefit the most.

The WVSSAC rules state that if 50 percent, or less, of the schools in the state sponsor a sport, there will be only one class. If there is 51-80 percent participation throughout the state, there can be a move to two classes.

The change to two classes would remove Class AAA teams like Morgantown, Parkersburg, Parkersburg South and Wheeling Park from the playoff path of Bridgeport and other Class AA schools. However, it would do little to help struggling Class A schools with a soccer program, because they would still face an uphill battle against larger AA schools in the playoffs.

According to Jerry Trembush, the Assistant Secretary of the WVSSAC, this year when the group met there were not the required number of schools sponsoring a soccer team to make a change. He said the boys were 7-8 percent short and the girls stood about 15 percent short.

"My prediction is that there will be enough schools participating with boys teams at the time of our next meeting to go with classes in the boys," Trembush said.

The only problem would be dealing with those opposed to changing the boys without the girls. However if girls soccer does not meet the required criteria Trembush is for changing just the boys.

"I would say that that is a possibility," he said. "Although, some people don't believe in that. I mean, it is two separate sports and they should be handled independently of each other. Yet people want to litigate everything today and there have been threats made."

For the change to be made the WVSSAC soccer coaches committee would have to recommend it. The nine-member group meets every year and is made up of eight coaches and one athletic director. Two coaches rotate out on a yearly basis and the athletic director is a permanent appointment made by the state AD association.

If the required percentage of teams is met and the move is recommended by the committee then the matter will be voted on by the WVSSAC board of appeals who is responsible for tournament structure.

Trembush has been an advocate for change for years, but each time he looked into the matter there just wasn't enough participation.

"There are very few Class AA-A schools with soccer programs in the state," he said. "That has increased over the last year, but at the time it was way down. We were looking at having a championship for a very small number of schools."

There are drawbacks to the proposed change including that conference play will still dictate that some teams still play larger schools, but to many schools in the area they are outweighed by the advantages.

Robert C. Byrd boys coach Lee Stonestreet believes that a change could only help everyone.

"(The current structure) is disheartening to the kids at the smaller schools," Stonestreet said. "(A change) would help the situation, help develop those teams and encourage more kids to come out."

South Harrison coach Frank Bowers, whose Hawks have struggled with low participation and a three-year-old program, could find more Class AA and A teams to fill out his teams schedule with the change, but he believes increased participation within the county would help his team the most.

"I'd like to see Liberty get into soccer, and Lincoln and Notre Dame," he said. "If the other schools in the county would get it together we'd start growing a lot faster."

A change would have little effect on scheduling for some teams and the rule that requires that each team in a conference play each other twice will still likely be a factor.

In fact, McAra said that Bridgeport would still play a lot of Class AAA teams and the Indians' status as a member of the Big 10 would assure that R.C.B. remains one of them. When playoff time arrives though, the real advantages will appear.

"We normally do O.K.," McAra said. "But when it's down to the regional each team is like Morgantown, Wheeling Park and the Parkersburgs."

That would change.

Sports Writer Shawn Yonker can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at sports@exponent-telegram.com.

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