ROCKPORT — High school football going to four classes from three received its final approval Thursday at the Maine Principals’ Association’s annual spring conference here at the Samoset Resort.
With principals and athletic directors serving as proxies, the vote, with a show of hands, sailed through as expected.
It’s been a four-year process to reshape and level the playing field in football by better aligning schools in classes more appropriate to their enrollments.
The ease in which it was approved was the result of schools, principals and coaches being well-informed, said football committee chairman Todd Livingston, the athletic director at South Portland High.
“We didn’t rush through the process,” said Livingston.
“The football committee did their due diligence. I think that showed today,” he said.
Starting this fall, there will be four football classes. The enrollment figures: Class A, 875 and up; Class B, 600-874; Class C, 450-599; and Class D, up to 449.
The various leagues in the state are putting together their schedules. The only question remaining is what form state championship Saturday will take. Some or all of the games will be at Fitzpatrick Stadium. But will there be three games and a Friday night game at Fitzy or will it be two games at Fitzy and two games at the University of Maine in Orono?
“All of those scenarios are on the table,” said Livingston.
Livingston said the football committee is not scheduled to meet again until August, but that the state title game logistics must be decided before then.
In other issues, the MPA approved the new two-year cycle for reclassification enrollment cut-off numbers for all sports and activities.
It passed a transgender participation policy for sports. The MPA approved a New England wrestling qualifying tournament, tweaked the two-thirds percentage for tournament qualification and approved a new format for the state ski championships.
In addition, committee reports were given for 17 sports along with drama and the national honor society.
Falmouth High was affected most by the sports classification enrollment numbers. Kennebunk was next.
The Yachtsmen will move to Class A from Class B in basketball, baseball, cross-country, field hockey, soccer, softball, track and tennis. Falmouth was already Class A in ice hockey, golf, skiing and volleyball. The Yachtsmen will remain Class B in football, lacrosse and swimming.
The cutoff numbers for the four classes are the same in some sports within a class, different in others.
For instance, the enrollment numbers in Class A for baseball and basketball are now 705 and up. Previously they were 725 and up. For Class A football, the enrollment is 875 and up. It had been 775 and up for the previous two-year cycle.
Falmouth is listed as having an enrollment of 727 students for the two-year school cycle.
Falmouth Athletic Director Cooper Higgins said his school will still compete in the Western Maine Conference, a predominately Class B and C conference.
“At the moment, it doesn’t make sense for us to jump leagues because in the next two-year reclassification cycle we will drop below our current enrollment and we will likely be back in Class B unless the MPA keeps dropping the numbers,” said Higgins.
Higgins said he wasn’t expecting the school’s enrollment to jump as much as it did.
“It made us Class A in more sports than I thought we would be,” he said.
Asked how he felt the school will do in Class A, Higgins said: “We’ve had success in the sports we’re already Class A in.”
The Yachtsmen won the Class A title in ice hockey.
Higgins said the school expects a drop in enrollment after the juniors and seniors graduate because they make up the classes with the most students.
While Falmouth will stay in the Western Maine Conference, Kennebunk will move from the Class A Southern Maine Activities Association to the Western Maine Conference even though the Rams will remain Class A in basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, outdoor track, tennis and wrestling.
Kennebunk will drop from Class A football to Class B.
Some of the highlights of reclassifications moves: Cape Elizabeth and Greely, after electing to play up in Class A soccer for years, will move to Class B to reflect their enrollments. Under the new football alignment, the Capers are now in Class C.
“We just felt it was appropriate to play soccer where our enrollment is,” said Cape Athletic Director Jeff Thoreck. “I’m happy Greely will be joining us.”
Biddeford, a long-time power in ice hockey, will move from Class A to Class B. Biddeford is projected to have an enrollment of 824. The new enrollment figure for that sport for Class A is 860 and up.
In Class A West football, Biddeford elects to play up (Class A) as does South Portland.
Deering, Portland and Cheverus have been moved to Eastern Maine in football to balance the numbers at eight teams each in East and West.
Maine will have a New England qualifier in wrestling. The top four seeds in their respective weight divisions will wrestle off for the right to advance to the New England tournament. In the past, state champions in each weight class were eligible for the New Englands.
“We’re going to let the kids decide it on the mat,” said Chris Chessie, chairman of the wrestling committee and principal of Wells Junior High.
The qualifying meet will likely be a week after the state meet.
MPA Executive Director Dick Durost said, “The time has come, it’s the right thing to do” in speaking for the transgender participation policy.
In Section 12 of the MPA’s policy guidelines states: “The MPA is committed to maximizing the opportunities for all students to participate in interscholastic activities or athletics, regardless of their gender identity or expression. At the same time, the MPA is committed to ensuring fair competition and adequate protection of student athletes. The MPA believes that all students should have the opportunity to participate in activities in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity unless such participation would result in an unfair athletic advantage or would present an unacceptable risk of injury to other student athletes.”
The MPA also states that a student is eligible to compete on a single-sex team only if he or she is a member of that sex, either as reflected on his or her birth certificate or, in the case of a transgender student, as approved in accordance with Article II, Section 12.
The MPA will have a Gender Identity Equity Committee to resolve issues should they arise.
In determining the last tournament qualifier based on two-thirds of a class, the number will be rounded up when there is a decimal remainder. For example, 11.3333 would be rounded to up to 12 and 12 teams will make the tournament.
For skiing, it was recommended and approved to separate the Nordic and Alpine championships because of the lack of availability of downhill ski areas for races during school vacation.
The Nordic races will remain during February vacation and would take place early in the week. The Alpine races would be held Friday and Saturday of the week following school vacation. When the championships are held in Aroostook County, both Nordic and Alpine will take place during February school vacation.
Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at: