Once again, the member schools of the Arkansas Activities Association voted to change how schools are classified for athletic purposes.
On Monday, the AAA Governing Body, which makes up almost all of the high schools in the state of Arkansas, voted by a 2/3 majority to created a new system of classification.
In short, football will stay the same with the current system of six classes – 7A through 2A.
In most other sports (basketball, baseball, softball, golf, track), there will be six classes — 6A though 1A. Other sports will have smaller classes, but all will start with Class 6A.
Since the 1960s, there have been at least six major changes to the classification format. All changes were in needed as the AAA and the member schools dealt with the changing landscape of school classification, not to mention the population shift to the central and western parts of the state.
In 1967, the AAA created a fifth classification (Class AAAA) for the 1968-69 school year that would be for schools as large as 1,500 students. Originally it would be for football only, but by 1970, it was for all sports.
Starting in the 1977-78 school year, another classification was added giving the AAA six classifications (Class AAAAA through Class B).
By the 1982-83 school year, the schools of the old Class AAAAA (1,500 students and above) had dwindled to just 2 schools – LR Central and Pine Bluff. So the AAA Board and the administrators of Class AAAAA and AAAA decided to absorb Class AAAAA into Class AAAA. So the AAA was back to five classifications. If you think about it, the end of the Class AAAAA Conference was the first example of the population shift taking effect. It would not be truly noticeable statewide until the 1990s and into the 2000s.
In 1990, the members schools voted to balance to classifications and conferences, by equalizing conference sizes. The top 32 teams by school size would be in Class AAAA and would have four 8-team conferences. Class AAA would also have 32 teams while Class AA and Class A would have 64 teams for football. (For many years, Class A would have more than 64 teams). Class B remained for non-football schools. By doing that, that ensured a 7-game conference schedule for football that also significantly lowered the number of open dates in the non-conference schedule and allowed 2 or 4 teams from a conference into the playoffs (no wld-card entries). Elements of this plan are still in use today.
This plan created two new classification, leading to seven classifications (Class 7A through Class A).
Class AAAAA was split into two, 16-team classes (7A and 6A) with two 8-team conferences. Class AAAA and AAA became three classes (Class 4A, 3A and 2A). Football would now have six classifications.
Eventually because of travel and competition concerns (and the accelerated rate of population shift), the AAA would experiment with blended conferences in Class 7A and 6A from 2010-2016 before going to blended conference in the smaller classes (6A/5A, 4A/3A, 2A/1A) in this current classification cycle.
Now that Proposal 9 has passed, the AAA has begun the process of creating new conferences for the member schools. (Above is the current attendance numbers for AAA member schools. It will be interesting to see how the new conferences shake out.