The return of Northside and Southside to the 7A-West took another step toward becoming official Monday.
The 33 schools that make up classes 7A and 6A approved a motion by a 26-7 vote to eliminate the mix-and-match of schools from both conferences in two of the four conferences that make up Arkansas’ two biggest classes.
Changes would take place for the 2014-16 cycle.
As a result, the 7A/6A-West, which the Grizzlies and Rebels were a part of for most of their athletic history, will include nothing but 7A teams and 7A/6A-South will include only 6A teams. That means Siloam Springs is bound to leave the West and Bryant will be out of the South.
Northside and Southside both moved to the Central beginning this school year.
There are no guarantees the Fort Smith schools would both make the move back to the West, but the possibility has certainly increased.
"Teams will be assigned to conferences later," Fort Smith Public Schools athletics director Jim Rowland said. "They can’t move teams from conferences until the enrollment numbers come out and we’re not there yet."
Northside and Southside are all but guaranteed to be in the same conference. If they both moved to the West, another team besides Siloam Springs will have to move out, too. That team would likely be Van Buren.
The Central and East conferences would continue to be comprised of four teams from 7A and four from 6A, so a simple shift of Van Buren and Siloam Springs to replace Northside and Southside in the Central wouldn’t work because it creates five 6A schools and three 7A schools in the conference.
Plenty of moving parts and decisions remain even if the enrollment numbers don’t move any schools up from 5A or down from 7A or 6A, Rowland said.
Football, basketball, baseball, volleyball, soccer and softball are the sports affected by the new system.
The vote also dismissed the power ranking system to determine playoff participants. Combined with the shift to two all-inclusive class conferences, this mostly impacts the new East and Central.
Three 7A and three 6A schools would make the playoffs from each conference. Teams would be compared strictly on how they did against in-conference opponents as a determining factor for playoff qualification.