By Maurice Patton
Citing travel and scheduling concerns, Columbia Academy officials are expected to present a proposal to the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association that would divide Division II-A into three regions for football, beginning with the 2021 season.
With the TSSAA Board of Control’s regularly scheduled June meeting postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the proposal would likely be submitted for the board’s consideration during a classification study session in late July.
Currently, DII-A consists of 18 programs in two regions – East and West – with Columbia Academy making trips during a two-year scheduling cycle to University School of Jackson (118 miles), Trinity Christian (119) and Jackson Christian (115), as well as Fayette Academy in Somerville (161) and Tipton-Rosemark in Millington (182).
The region also includes Clarksville Academy, Davidson Academy, Nashville Christian and Zion Christian, although Zion did not play a region schedule in 2019 and is not expected to this season.
Under the three-region configuration, CA would play in the Middle Region with holdovers Clarksville Academy, Davidson and Nashville Christian, along with Donelson Christian and Franklin’s Grace Christian, both of which are currently in the East Region.
The grouping would provide relief for the Bulldogs, and most of the DII-A programs, in terms of travel distances and scheduling flexibility.
“We should be able to play some closer games, some ‘rivalry’ games,” CA athletics director Pernell Knox said. “Some (officials at other schools) like the travel change, but they don’t necessarily like the makeup of the regions. It doesn’t necessarily cut down on travel for everybody.
“Some coaches don’t know if they can schedule four or five (non-region) games.”
Across the board in Division II-A, travel would be reduced for 14 of the 18 programs – by more than half in the majority of those cases.
“We haven’t gotten any feedback (on the proposal),” CA coach Charlie Lansdell said. “We met with the coaches at the region meeting. The only negative seems to be trying to find non-region games, the difficulty of finding non-region games.”
Last fall, facing a schedule with eight games in league play, Columbia Academy opened against Class 4A power Marshall County and followed with a trip to Class 5A stalwart Shelbyville.
“We don’t mind playing them, but it’s going to take a whole lot of good for us to be able to win games like that,” Lansdell said. “We do want to try to get good non-region competition – good competition, good gates. We’re looking forward to seeing if we can make it happen. From a travel perspective, it would really help us out.”
The proposal allows for a five-team West Region (Fayette Academy, Jackson Christian, Tipton-Rosemark, Trinity Christian and University School of Jackson) and a six-team East Region (Friendship Christian, Chattanooga Grace, Middle Tennessee Christian, Mt. Juliet Christian, The King’s Academy and Webb-Bell Buckle).
“We’ve sent it out to a few coaches,” Knox said. “We want to send it out to some more coaches and ADs and let them review it before we submit it to the TSSAA.”