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The Times Are A-Changing in NEPSAC

July 30, 2010 Columns 4 Comments

(Updated: August 6, 2010, 8:00 PM ET)

For some time, discussion of a realignment within the New England Prep School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) had been ongoing but not led to it happening. Back in the fall of 2009, it was a matter of discussion again and seemed like it was en route to one day becoming reality, with some changes possible for the recently concluded basketball season. Those changes didn’t happen at that time, but the discussion continued. Some NEPSAC coaches and athletic directors thought it may happen sooner rather than later, while others felt it might never happen because it’s long been discussed but never turned into reality.

Finally, within the past couple of months, a realignment has come to pass, and NEPSAC will look a little different starting in 2010-11.

Previously, NEPSAC had four classes of competition, with Class A being the most competitive in part because those schools had more post-graduate players. Class B schools were limited to four such players and Classes C and D could not take any, although they could have a fifth-year player who repeated an earlier grade. There are also a number of leagues within it that operate independently of the class structure, such as the Lakes Region (a number of New Hampshire schools plus Vermont Academy) and ISL (a number of Class C schools).

The new NEPSAC will have two main divisions, then a group of four divisions that are done strictly by the number of boys enrolled in the school. The leagues will stay in place and operate as they have before, and will have a minor effect on scheduling.

First up is the AAA Division, which is basically the old Class A minus Phillips Exeter Academy and Worcester Academy. It is now an eight-school grouping and is a very competitive landscape as all of the schools have had their share of success recently. There are no slouches in this group. They may schedule up to 34 games including tournaments, and they are a special class in that they may start workouts and practice earlier than others. The scheduling limit does not include the NEPSAC Tournament games.

Overall, life changes very little for these schools at the end of the day.

The AA Division has 17 schools, including Worcester Academy and many old Class B schools like St. Andrew’s and three-time reigning champion Tilton. It will also include recent Class C powerhouses Lawrence Academy and St. Mark’s, who dominated Class C in recent years to the point where most would expect it to be a race for third place behind them. Two other noteworthy additions are Boston Trinity Academy, which had been a Class D powerhouse with back-to-back titles, and Christian Heritage, which was also in Class D. There is a wide range of enrollment numbers at these schools, ranging from the Hotchkiss School with nearly 300 boys down to Brimmer & May (61) and the Masters School in Simsbury, CT with 55. (Note that there is also a Masters in New York.) These schools may schedule up to 30 games including tournaments, and as with the AAA Division NEPSAC Tournament games do not count toward this limit.

Documentation obtained by Hoopville that outlined the changes originally showed 15 schools in the AA Division. But multiple NEPSAC sources said that was a mistake and the number is 17, with Cushing Academy and Christian Heritage being noted as not being in the AA Division originally.

After that is the Enrollment Division, four divisions A through D that go strictly by boys enrollment at the school. The A Division, whose schools have a boys enrollment of 240 and up, is headlined by academic powerhouses Phillips Andover and Phillps Exeter as the only schools with boys enrollments of over 500, while emerging schools in basketball like Choate Rosemary Hall and Milton Academy are also in the mix.

The B Division, whose schools have a boys enrollment of 170-239, features Suffield Academy, Governors Academy, Kingswood-Oxford, Cheshire Academy, Brooks School, Beaver Country Day and Rivers School. The C Division, with boys enrollments of 101-169, includes Noble & Greenough, Hamden Hall, Pingree, Providence Country Day, Lexington Christian and the Hyde School in Connecticut (there is also a Hyde School in Maine, which is in the D Division). The D Division has schools with boys enrollments below 100, starting with the Bancroft School at 95 down to the Waldorf School with 15.

Schools in the A-D divisions may play a total of 25 games including tournaments. They may play six games against schools in the AAA or AA, but may appeal to play more if geography is an issue and creates a hardship, usually a budgetary one. Also not included in that limit will be games against a league opponent. For example, when ISL members Rivers and St. Mark’s play, the game will not count against Rivers’ limit of games against AAA or AA schools.

In the past, scheduling was a big reason why some schools would move up in the class system. Brimmer & May ran into trouble getting games two years in a row and moved up from Class D to Class B within two years. Now, scheduling may be an issue this year as concerns tournaments, as many schedules were already well set before the realignment was announced and changes may be difficult to make for 2010-11. Tournament committees will take this into account in the event that geography and other factors may limit a school’s ability to play the majority of its games within its division. Each class within the Enrollment Division will have a championship, meaning there will be six championships in boys basketball.

If a school wants to move from the Enrollment Division, they can only move to the AA Division. They cannot change classes from within the Enrollment Division unless they enroll more boys, which could happen but may not be likely in the foreseeable future given the uncertain economy.

St. Andrew’s head coach and athletic director Mike Hart, who is the President of the Boys Basketball Coaches Association, said most coaches were okay with the new structure although not everyone was in love with it. Schools may appeal the decision as it affects them, and any appeals will be considered when the NEPSAC Executive Board meets on October 18. From what Hart said, if there are any appeals they are likely to be very small in number.

Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. This is somewhat true but not wholly. Where did you get your information? Not from NEPSAC,

  2. Cornelius says:

    FYI: Holderness School (not Academy) is co-ed with 300 students total, at roughly a 55-45 split, boys to girls.

  3. FRANK says:

    WHAT A MESS.

  4. rob bean says:

    Outstanding work by Mike and NEPSAC! Tilton School which has feasted on the likes of KUA, Vermont Academy, and Hebron Academy is going to have to play solid teams in order to qualify for a championship. They cannot slip in the back door any more! They have an All Star team line-up as they have brought in BABC players. Now they must really play complete basketball games. No more easy wins!!!

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