By Kevin Wilson
CMI staff writer
The New Mexico Activities Association on Wednesday released new classifications and district formats for nearly all of its sports, and gave member schools 72 hours to appeal the format that would apply to the next two seasons.
Clovis school officials said they will accept the changes, but Portales is concerned about travel and likely to appeal.
The realignment ( available here) creates six classes in most sports, eliminating Class B and creating Classes 1A through 6A.
Clovis moves up to Class 6A, while Portales wil be a 4A school.
In every sport except swimming, Clovis is now part of the four-team District 4-6A, with Alamogordo joining Hobbs, Carlsbad and Clovis.
Clovis High Athletic Director Dale Fullerton said he has no plans to appeal, but can understand if Alamogordo ends up doing so. The Tigers would have significant travel increases moving from their current district, which includes Gadsden, Las Cruces, Mayfield and Onate. That district remains intact, with Deming moving up to replace the Tigers.
“Bringing in Alamogordo will help the scheduling,” Fullerton said. “We still have to travel to places to play anyway. It’s really going to help us.”
For Portales, it’s not nearly that simple. Athletic Director Mark Gallegos planned to appeal immediately, and he said at least five of the six athletic directors whose schools would join Portales in a seven-team soccer district are on the same page. Soccer only has three classes due to sporadic participation at lower levels — 6A, 5A and a third class including all others — and Portales is in District 3 of the “small school” class.
“The district encompasses Socorro, Silver, Hatch Valley, East Mountain, Portales, Ruidoso and (New Mexico Military Institute),” Gallegos said. “Our concern is the travel. The cost to our district is not feasible, it’s not equitable, and it’s not in any way fair. I’ve already voiced my concern. I’m in the process of visiting (athletic directors) in that district and possibly (proposing) splitting that district in half.
“If you do that (travel issues) to an Albuquerque school, they’d scream bloody murder. The Albuquerque schools had to play Carlsbad and Clovis (under a previous alignment when Class 5A was created); how fast did that get changed?”
In football, Portales would be part of a five-team District 4-4A that includes NMMI, Ruidoso, Hope Christian and St. Michael’s.
“It’s hard to understand,” Gallegos said. “Where do you come up with Hope and St. Mike’s? You make us a five-team district, and you leave the Albuquerque district with four and the Las Vegas district with four. I don’t see the equity in it.”
In basketball, Portales is in a four-team district with NMMI, East Mountain and Ruidoso. Gallegos said moving Lovington up to 5A, where it will play with Goddard, Roswell High and Artesia, only added to Portales’ travel problems, and he felt the NMAA didn’t give enough consideration to the fact NMMI doesn’t compete in many girls sports. In softball, that creates a three-team district for Portales, which the NMAA said it was trying to eliminate.
Having been part of a three-team District 4-5A since 2005, Clovis football coach Eric Roanhaus said the format is problematic because you can’t get quality games in the middle of the season with everybody else in district play, and he believes seeding committees downgrade Clovis, Hobbs and Carlsbad for being in a small district.
“The fewer teams you have in district, the harder it is to schedule,” Roanhaus said. “You might as well be glad in the same pants you’re sad in. They’re going to do what they want.”
The geography of the state, with the concentration of the state’s schools in Albuquerque and Las Cruces, creates a somewhat unavoidable disparity in travel requirements — so much so that Fullerton said travel and meal costs account for around 70 percent of Clovis’ overall athletic budget, and Clovis assistant coaches said road meals normally don’t get more expensive than pizza or fast food.
For instance, the Clovis High football team traveled 1,812 miles on its five road games in the regular season. Counting school-to-stadium mileage, District 5-5A’s six teams combined to log 1,425 miles in 50 games. Three 5-5A teams didn’t leave Bernalillo County, and only one of them logged more than 190 miles. Clovis’ shortest road trip of the season was 206 miles roundtrip against Artesia, and it will travel about 220 miles to face 5-5A champ Valley Friday in the 5A quarterfinals.
Adding to the problem is Texas realignment, which eliminates closer Texas schools like Muleshoe and Shallowater as possible opponents.
“They’re playing district games the second week of December,” Gallegos said in reference to basketball. “They can’t play us anymore.”
Decisions are still pending on football for Class 1A, six-man and eight-man classifications.