ROANOKE, W.Va. — The proposal for a fourth classification in West Virginia high school basketball took a major step forward Tuesday.

In an overwhelming 111-26 vote, the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission Board of Control passed the proposal, sending the measure to the state’s Board of Education.

“I was probably a little surprised at the amount of the majority and how big it was, but you knew there was going to be a lot of support,” said Bernie Dolan, SSAC Executive Director. 

The proposal is a two-year test run for basketball only and would begin in 2021 if passed by the Board of Education, which will receive the submission later this month.

After putting the proposal out for public comment for 30 days, the Board of Education will vote on the matter, which previously has taken place in July. Should the proposal pass, it would sit in the Secretary of State’s Office for 60 days, before becoming official, likely in mid-September, according to Dolan.

“The goal is to improve the whole for as many schools as possible,” said St. Albans principal Jeff Kelley, who voted in favor of the proposal. “Through data driven numbers, I’m pretty confident that what we will see is the competitive balance will improve for all schools in the state. 

“Part of my responsibility as a principal is to do what’s right for all kids and all schools in this state. I firmly believe that this is going to improve the overall balance statewide for all schools. To me it was a no-brainer.”

Through the proposal, which was formed by the Competitive Balance Committee, each school would have a score from 1-100 that weighs several factors: Seventy percent from enrollment, 20 percent from location [to a city or county seat] and 10 percent is a combination of the economics of the county and students enrolled.

“We convened a committee to look at different factors we felt were important and came up with this once we decided what those factors were,” Dolan said. “They’re all objective numbers from the census or Department of Education. They’re fair numbers and it moves people to where more people in the class are equal and that was the goal.”

The Competitive Balance Committee consists of 18 people — five principals or athletic directors from the three current classes, and three members of the WVSSAC Board of Directors. Representatives from public and private schools formed the proposal.

“Once we had an idea, they went back to their community and asked fellow administrators and coaches what they thought,” Dolan said. “We really had an opportunity to hone in on some of the key characteristics certain schools had. It’s not so much a public and private as it is urban and rural.”

The proposal was presented Monday at the annual SSAC Board of Control meeting at Stonewall Resort.

“They did their homework and I thought it was really well presented,” Kelley said. “I think it’s going to address to some degree the issue of imbalance. That was the goal of everybody involved. I trust those guys and they put together what I think is a quality product.”

If the proposal passes, several factors will be considered to determine its success rate.

“Things we’ll look at will be the fairness in the class,” Dolan said. “What does it look like compared to how many different people made it to the state tournament in previous years compared to these two years? 

“What are expenses to schools and the offsetting revenue? And just a general feel from membership. If they feel it’s well worth it, we may look to expand [to other sports]. If they say not worth it, we’ll probably look to curtail it.”

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