For the second year in a row, the Arkansas High School Football Playoffs could be in jeopardy of having one or more classifications postponed due to a lawsuit.
According to the Times Record Online, the Van Buren School District and the Van Buren School District Board of Directors filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Crawford County on Friday against the Arkansas Activities Association, citing inconsistencies with conference classifications and the manner in which playoff berths and seeds are determined.
The report also states that the individual Arkansas Activities Association Board of Directors have individually named in the lawsuit. The district is also seeking an injunction against the A.A.A. 'restraining them from applying the rule excluding non-conference games from playoff eligibility determination and combining schools of different classifications in a conference.'
Van Buren Superintendent Dr. Merle Dickerson informed the Times Record of several reasons for filing the lawsuit.
"Establishing a 6A and 7A classification and then requiring 6A teams to play 7A teams is inconsistent, and we think unfair." He said. "In the arrangements of the conference, there are two conferences, one purely 6A and one purely 7A, and there are two conferences with exceptions in each one," Dickerson said. "In one, there are six 6A schools and two 7A schools. In the other, which is our conference, there are two 6A schools and six 7A schools. There, we see a bit of an inconsistency."
Van Buren was classified as a 6A school but placed into the 7A/6A conference with six other 7A teams in the current classification for this school year, as well the next school year.
One other reason for the lawsuit is due to the initial ruling to count non-conference games towards the playoff seedings by using a rating system rather than the usual head-to-head basis for the two conferences consisting of both 6A and 7A schools.
Instead, the ruling was changed in January to not count non-conference games, which was unknown to Van Buren and Russellville.
According to the Times Record, representatives from those schools didn't know about that change until after football season started. In 6A and 7A, first and second seeded teams earn first-round byes and then have home games in the second rounds
Russellville is rumored to be joining the lawsuit as well.
"Our kids play one 6A team the rest of the conference games are 7A teams. Now, we're supposed to beat 7A teams to get to the 6A playoffs. The plan is questionable, not to mention how they changed all of that to begin with is suspect." said Dickerson. "The second issue is that the AAA wanted to address that with power ratings. The first plan for power ratings seem satisfactory to us at the time. That was all we could get at that point. Then the way it was changed is suspect. We think something is wrong with the process with the way they changed the power ratings."
When the classifications were originally assigned, Van Buren was in the 7A/6A Central with Little Rock Hall, Little Rock Parkview, Little Rock Fair, Little Rock Catholic, Little Rock Central, Conway and Russellville, meaning the longest road trip would have been Little Rock.
Class 6A Searcy, which was assigned to the 7A/6A East, appealed the original conference alignment. The Arkansas Activities association allowed the member schools to vote on the appeal, and the measure passed by a 21-9 count. The vote placed Van Buren back into the 7A/6A Central and replaced Hall, Parkview and Fair with Cabot, Bryant and North Little Rock.
"Everybody in that board room that night when I stood up and talked about this not being right for us to play in the 7A/6A Central as a 6A team agreed and shook their head," Van Buren athletics director Randy Loyd told the Times Record. "When it came time to vote, they voted for themselves and what was best for them."
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