LITTLE ROCK — A proposal that got a 19-0 do-pass recommendation in June from the Arkansas Activities Association’s board of directors was dead on arrival at the organization’s Governing Body meeting in August.
The recommendation to move the start of the high school football season to the third week beginning in August for 2016, and thereby eliminating a week of preseason practice, was overwhelmingly voted down, 129-54, by superintendents and representatives of AAA institutions at Wednesday’s meeting. As a constitutional amendment, it required a 2/3 favorable vote to pass.
The proposal originated from a 68 percent favorability rating on a survey after some playoff games were postponed because of winter weather last December.
No one spoke in favor of the proposal Wednesday.
Jim Tucker of El Dorado spoke against the proposal, noting that in a survey his district did among all football-playing schools in the state, there were no favorable responses from athletic directors and football coaches about moving up the start of the season. He also gave negative responses he received from Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema and the football staffs at Henderson State and Hendrix.
He also noted the probability of low gates if state finals were played on Thanksgiving Weekend (which would result if the proposal were approved) and the probability of most coaches at Arkansas colleges would not be able be respresented at state championship games if played on the holiday weekend.
“We are also concerned about safety measures if you cut a week of practices,” Tucker said. “Most coaches now have it down to a science of conditioning and acclimating their players for the season.”
Another concern was the proposal was a knee-jerk reaction to a rare weather event.
In another major proposal, AAA officials approved a new conference and playoff structure for the 2016 cycle in which there would be no blended Class 7A and 6A conferences. Class 7A and 6A would each consist of two eight-team leagues with four teams from each conference advancing to the playoffs. That would eliminate the complicated and controversial rating system used to seed playoffs in the blended 7A and 6A conferencees.
Class 5A would consist of the next 32 largest schools with the next 48 in 4A, the next 48 in 3A and the remainder in 2A for football and the non-football members in 1A.
In basketball, baseball and softball, 6A and 5A would be combined into districts by geography for regular-season play then return to the teams’ regular conferences for the postseason. There will be a similar arrangement for soccer and volleyball.
The main reason for the restructuring (with no set conferences in the regular season except for football) was to improve travel issues and reduce loss of class time.
The measure, which required only a majority vote, passed 94-40 after a parliamentary maneuver by Vilonia assistant principal Ed Sellers to delay the restructuring a year for further study failed, 83-47.
A proposal to limit full-contact practices to three a week after the start of the season (including junior varsity and varsity games) and no preseason full gear and contact practices on consecutive days after Day 5, passed 163-21. It passed overwhelming because coaches, in guarding against injuries, already limit contact work after the season begins.
Measures to improve schools’ percentage of gate receipts for state football championship games and to adjust seeding and procedures for volleyball tournaments passed with virtually no opposition.