Thursday, 03 December 2020 13:12

BREAKING: NCHSAA to eliminate football subdivisions, no changes to current calendar

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ROSports File Photo: Caleb Hood runs through traffic during Richmond's 2019 playoff win against Myers Park. ROSports File Photo: Caleb Hood runs through traffic during Richmond's 2019 playoff win against Myers Park. Jimmy McDonald — The Richmond Observer.

CHAPEL HILL — Changes are coming to the high school football postseason landscape in the 2021-2022 season.

Following its regularly scheduled winter meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Board of Directors announced that it was eliminating football subdivisions.

In a tweet, the NCHSAA said the Board of Directors “approved elimination of subdivisions for football returning to the 4-classification system beginning for the 2021-2022 sports season.” 

The post noted that the Board voted unanimously (19-0) in favor of the change.

The current playoff system for high school football is broken into eight subdivisions, seeing all four classifications split in half with an “A” and “AA” bracket. With the new amendment, there will just be four classifications: 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A.

At the time of publication, the NCHSAA has not released any details about the new qualifications for the state playoffs or the number of schools that will make the postseason for each classification.

This comes during a time when the NCHSAA is also collecting data on conference realignment, which has Richmond Senior High School projected to remain in 4A.

For the last several years, Richmond has been a 4AA program based on its size and average daily membership.

Richmond head coach Bryan Till said the news was a “huge” decision, and said there is a lot to sort out under the new format. One point of emphasis from Till was the potential financial impact of the condensed playoff field.

“Considering the loss of revenue coming out of a pandemic, the timing of it is really not good for high school sports driven by football gate sales,” Till said. “There are lots of variables at play, so it’ll be interesting to see what (the NCHSAA) decides.

“One big thing is there won’t be a bye in the playoffs if you’re a No. 1 seed,” he added, as Richmond secured the top seed in the West bracket in 2019. “The playoff rounds now get tougher from top to bottom because they’ll be eliminating almost half the playoff field.”

Under the current format, 24 teams make the playoffs in the 4A and 4AA brackets, the same with the 1A and 1AA brackets. 

Till said with the coming changes, a team that had a “decent season” or is a “bubble team” could be left out. 

When asked how the new format impacts the Raiders, Till said the team’s week-to-week preparation won’t change. But with no specifics released from the NCHSAA, he added that a clearer image will be painted as new information surfaces.

“It’s hard to say right now since we don’t know the criteria for playoffs,” Till said. “They may base it off conference win percentage or the playoffs could be decided using MaxPreps rankings. 

“That would mean we’d want a tough non-conference schedule, and also a schedule that has challenges and teams we can beat. Either way, we feel like we can win.”

The NCHSAA Board of Directors also voted to change the number of allowed regular season games from 11 to 10. Teams will still be able to schedule an endowment game.


As COVID-19 cases continue to grow across the state, the NCHSAA said during its meetings it doesn't plan to make any changes to its amended 2020-2021 sports calendar, which was approved in August.

That means the high school football season is still a go, set to begin with practices on Feb. 8 and the first week of games on Feb. 26.

This is a developing story. The Richmond Observer will update it as more information becomes available.

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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