The structure of high school basketball in Maine will continue with a largely familiar look over the next few seasons.

On Thursday, the Classification Committee of the Maine Principals’ Association approved a motion to keep Class AA – the state’s largest enrollment class – divided into North and South regions, in response to an appeal led by Gorham High Athletic Director Tim Spear. The committee had announced a plan to last week combine the largest class into a single region consisting of 14 boys’ teams and 15 girls’ teams.

The plan for high school basketball classification would impact the 2023-24 and 2024-25 seasons. The MPA’s Interscholastic Management Committee will vote on the classification plan next Thursday.

“I don’t think anybody’s willing to die on a hill about a regional championship in this committee,” MPA assistant executive director Mike Bisson said. “If we can grant that, even though it’s probably not an ideal tournament with seven teams in it, (we will). … If that’s the feeling from that group, I don’t think that’s the piece of it we had a lot of heartburn about.”

The meeting was the latest in a series of discussions over the last two months that have addressed classification in basketball and have flirted with major changes, only for the structure to remain essentially the status quo. In January, the MPA’s Basketball Committee proposed a plan to do away with Class AA and create a Class S for the smallest schools, a plan that was rejected by the Classification Committee.

A pair of proposals brought to the Classification Committee in February, one for four classes and one for five, resulted in the plan to stick with the current five-class structure, with Class AA organized into one statewide region. The plan also included an ability for boys’ and girls’ programs that had won less than 25% of their games to move down a class while still being eligible for the playoffs.


Going forward, Class AA would be for schools with at least 825 students, Class A would be 585 to 824 students, Class B 315 to 584, Class C 130 to 314 and Class D 129 and fewer students.

At Thursday’s meeting, Spear moved for a return to regional championships, saying the North and South competitions serve a purpose.

“When we created AA (in 2015), it was very, very important that we kept our regions,” Spear said. “It’s important to our communities, it’s important to our kids and our coaches. It’s a big deal. … We celebrate regional championships, and making it to that far. Not just in basketball, but in our other sports that have it.”

Spear also said a single region would present logistical hurdles.

“When you have a statewide class, it does reflect in the schedule you’re going to create,” he said. “That will create a burden, both financially and travel. That will be tough for schools to do that.”

Spear also pitched for more teams in the top class, but Bisson said lowering the enrollment cutoff, which was at 800 students this winter for Class AA, would lead to more complications.


“I think it’s the impact on all the other classes,” Bisson said. “You’d be moving a number of schools up a class from where they’re currently playing, and then you’ll have another onslaught of appeals from schools to not do that.”

Bill Goodman, the Cheverus girls’ basketball coach, said keeping regional championships is better than the one-region alternative.

“Everyone wants to compete for a final and then get to states. It’s so hard to win a state championship,” he said. “People love playoff basketball, so why would you take away an extra couple of games of really fun playoff basketball? You want more, not less.”

One statewide region would have allowed all AA tournament games to be played at neutral site, which has been a preference for the class’s schools. Instead, with the North and South split, regional quarterfinals will continue being played at the higher seeds.

“At least it’s something, compared to nothing,” Goodman said.

South Portland boys’ basketball Coach Kevin Millington also prefers two regions over one, but is unhappy with fewer teams in Class AA. With Hampden dropping down to Class A because of the new enrollment cutoff and the Noble and Massabesic boys’ teams heading to Class A because of winning percentage, Class AA is left with 14 boys’ teams. Bisson said the Basketball Committee will finalize which teams play in which regions.


“Everyone I’ve talked to, the 14 is tragic. It should never have gotten to that,” Millington said. “To me, it’s another example of decisions that have come down that have negatively impacted the largest class, and it’s been going on for 30 years. Our competition has been diminished every year on these decisions.”

Millington cited a string of changes that have come at the expense of the largest schools, from the Class A tournament moving from its own week in March to February vacation in 2006, to a rule limiting the amount of exhibitions teams can play, to the creation of a Class AA in 2015.

“I think most AA schools feel the same way (about preferring four classes),” Millington said. “I don’t know where we went. For the longest time, 725 was the (enrollment cutoff) number. There’s no data that supports that the largest schools in Maine have had an advantage over the lower end of the class. Lewiston hasn’t been rolling in Gold Balls, neither has Sanford, neither has Thornton Academy.

“We’ve really seen our product get diminished repeatedly over the last 30 years, and not once has a decision improved our quality.”

Millington was also unsatisfied by Class AA remaining the only class that doesn’t play its regional quarterfinals at neutral sites.

“That’s terrible,” he said. “A lot of our kids are not going to be able to play at the Civic Centers or (Portland) Expos or wherever. That’s such a great experience for so many kids.”

The Classification Committee on Thursday also allowed all teams that had requested to remain in their classes rather than moving down based on performance to stay put, a list that includes the Belfast boys and girls, Erskine boys and Leavitt girls, all of whom remain in Class B. Appeals by the Waterville girls and Buckfield girls to play down in Class C and D, respectively, were denied, as was an appeal from Washington Academy to have the Class B enrollment floor moved from 315 to 320.

Maranacook’s request to move from Class B South to Class B North was approved.

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