Area athletic directors had mixed reactions to the N.C. High School Athletic Association's latest conference realignment proposal, which was released last week.
The I-Meck 4A seems to be close to its end, as the proposal continues to split the conference by sending Lake Norman and Mooresville to a 3A/4A league with the rest of Iredell County schools, North Lincoln and Alexander Central.
Lake Norman athletic director Steve Rankin said he's disappointed by the proposed move to a split conference, explaining it could bring down the level of competition in sports like swimming and soccer.
"I know our 3A counterparts aren't happy because they don't want to be competing against the largest schools," said Rankin. "But I'm not real happy myself because it isn't going to make us any stronger. It's going to give us a false sense of being good and that could hurt when we get to the playoffs."
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
But Rankin isn't concerned with the travel time. In the I-Meck, the Wildcats' furthest trip was 30 minutes down I-77 to West Charlotte, while traveling to Alexander Central takes nearly an hour.
"But we played them a lot in non-conference anyway," he said. "We're used to it, so it's not a big deal."
Hough athletic director Masanori Toguchi isn't too concerned with the proposal.
"Not too much has changed for us," he admits.
In the last two years, the Huskies have developed rivalries with the Wildcats and the Blue Devils, but Toguchi doesn't expect them to stop playing each other if the latest proposal remains the same when the NCHSAA board finalizes realignment in May.
"With those two schools being so close in proximity," he said. "We'll probably look to play those schools for non-conference games if there's space available."
Hough, as well as Hopewell, North Mecklenburg and the remaining I-Meck schools, would be joined by Concord's Jay M. Robinson and Kannapolis' A.L. Brown according to the latest proposal. That would also increases travel time for local athletes.
The Southern Piedmont 1A/2A would also be dismantled, as Lake Norman Charter moves up to 2A to stay in the same conference with East Lincoln, West Lincoln and Lincolnton as well as being joined by Catawba Valley 2A teams Bandys, Bunker Hill, Maiden and Newton-Conover.
East Lincoln athletic director Mike Byus likes the proposed move to an all-2A league.
"The biggest thing is that it cleans up all the playoff seeding and all that stuff," he said. "More folks will get a seed because you're not splitting it up between 1A and 2A."
Byus added that the "brutal" level of competition should help teams as they head into the playoffs, but he also foresees it helping the program in other ways.
"Financially, it would be very good for us," he said. "I think we've got a lot of natural rivalries in this league coming up."
Several Lake Norman area teams will be newcomers to NCHSAA conferences when the new leagues start in the fall of 2013.
Soon-to-open Catholic school Christ the King, Community School of Davidson, Lincoln Charter and Pine Lake Prep would form a 1A league with Bessemer City, Cherryville, Highland Tech and Thomas Jefferson Academy according to the latest proposal.
Community School of Davidson athletic director Adam Olmstead said he's excited about joining a public school conference not only because it gives athletes a chance to compete and get recognition, but also because it will make scheduling easier.
"We won't be going as far as the mountains to play any game we can get," he said.
The school, which has played a slate of independent schools, will have its first senior class in 2013 when they join a conference.
Schools have until March 1 to appeal to the proposal. The realignment committee will meet March 15 to hear in-person appeals and finalize conferences. The NCHSAA board will then hear appeals until April 1 before making its final decision at its annual meeting.