MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — With the addition of a fourth class to the West Virginia high school basketball alignment secured for the 2020-2021 season, the focus for the WVSSAC turns towards implementing and then evaluating the new landscape of high school hoops.

Last week, the State of Education approved a WVSSAC proposal to add a fourth classification to high school basketball in a two-year pilot program. The changes will go into effect for the 2020-2021 season. The proposal passed on a 7-2 vote.

“It takes away all of the unknowns and allows us to move forward, have definite plans and definite numbers,” said WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan.

Although a list of projected classes was circulated as an example of how the classifications may look, school enrollment figures will be finalized by October 1st. Afterwards, the official classification list will be announced. Each school will have a score from 1-100 that weighs several factors: 70 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.

“Location is beginning to be a bigger factor than just simply enrollment,” Dolan said. “It is obviously the first time that we have looked at things other than enrollment and changing the cut score to identify things that are important.”

With an additional class in play, seven games will be added to both the boys and girls state tournaments. Over a 12-day period, 56 state tournament games would be scheduled. In all likelihood, each tourney will be expanded by a day, meaning the competition will run from Tuesday morning to Saturday evening.

“We are looking to see if it is possible to get any more games in during the week Wednesday through Friday. I am not sure if that is possible without going so late into the night,” Dolan said.

In April, the Board of Control, which consists of WVSSAC member schools, voted 111-26 in favor of creating a fourth class. Dolan says that same group will evaluate the trial program and vote to keep the fourth class or revert back to the previous system.

“It will go back to the Board of Control for a vote. So it will really be up to them to determine whether they feel like it is doing what it is supposed to… to balance each class and whether or not there is more variety in those who qualify for the tournament.”

While no formal proposals to create a fourth class in any other sport have been crafted, Dolan says there are reasons basketball was more advantageous than others to launch this trial program.

“If you are thinking football, in that format, we would have to figure out how to classify each of the out-of-state schools. I don’t see us being able to do that to our out-of-state opponents.”

Football playoff ratings are determined using a formula that involves win/loss records and strength of schedule.

Dolan discussed the viability of a fourth class potentially being added to other sports that the WVSSAC sponsors.

“Volleyball could be another one that could work without a whole lot of difficulty.”

“Baseball and softball in theory could work. But we run the risk of weather. We have a lot of trouble getting our current situation completed as it stands now. It could fit but in order to get the schedule, it could be more challenging.”

The state baseball tournament last month was extended by a day due to weather affecting play early in the event.

“Cross country would be easy for the format to work. Track would be a little bit more challenging just because of the number of events. In wrestling, we would have to change the format. We wouldn’t be able to have four classes of separate tournaments.”

“It is possible that it could roll out into other sports but realistically, there are some sports that it would be a big challenge.”

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