The Virginia High School League Executive Committee approved on Wednesday an all-encompassing realignment of the state’s high school sports landscape.
Passed by a 23-3 vote, the motion will install a six-classification system that generates more playoff spots but diminishes the importance of district titles.
The revised structure, which will be put in place next year, divides schools by enrollment rather than by geographic location. Schools with the most students will be classified as 6A, those with the least as 1A.
Each classification will be split into two regions, which will be further separated into four conferences. In most sports, a state champion will be crowned from each classification.
“The league membership has been studying and discussing this specific change since December,” VHSL executive director Ken Tilley said in a statement. “Considerable progress has already been made in developing details regarding future organization, playoffs, finances and other aspects.”
In football, the new system will grant regional playoff berths to 32 teams from every classification, 16 from each region. District play will resume as usual, but playoff berths will be allocated on the basis of a football rating scale, not district championships.
Most other sports will hold conference tournaments to determine regional berths. That could make for considerably longer postseason commutes for some schools.
Hopewell High School received a 3A East classification and will be joined in Conference 26 by Petersburg, Armstrong, Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, Huguenot and George Wythe. Colonial Heights was grouped in the same region, but the Colonials’ conference is a bit more far-flung.
Along with Colonial Heights, Conference 25 includes Lafayette (Williamsburg), New Kent, Poquoson, York (Grafton), Southampton (Courtland), Park View (South Hill) and War Hill (Williamsburg).
Prince George will be grouped in 5A South Conference 12 along with Central District foes Matoaca and Meadowbrook. L.C. Bird, Clover Hill and Manchester are also included in that conference.
Thomas Dale, the only Central District school given a 6A classification, will compete in Conference 3 against Varina, Cosby, James River, Franklin County and Patrick Henry (Roanoke).