The possible passage of a new five-class plan for high school basketball in Maine represents an ideal opportunity for returning to a separate tourney for the largest schools.
The Class A tourney had been held in early March, but moved to the February vacation week in 2006 when Eastern Maine’s Class A schools also left the leaky confines of the old barn on Dutton Street in Bangor for the Augusta Civic Center.
Under the new five-class format, the state’s largest schools would become Class AA for schools with enrollments of more than 824. That means five tourneys could be crammed into the February vacation week and the next weekend.
The main rationale for moving the Class A tourney to the February vacation week was to end a conflict with the annual Maine Educational Assessment testing, which took place in mid-March.
That conflict appears to be less now as the testing window is from mid-March until the end of May. The tests are administered online and each individual high school can also determine the dates for the tests, which are given to the junior class.
The potential for conflicts would have been minimal this season as the tourneys ended on Feb. 28. That would have left the next two weekends open for a separate tourney for the big schools.
During the past tourney, there were several conflicts when Class A games were being held at the same time as the Class B-C-D games. This forced fans to choose between which games to attend and also which to watch on television.
Maine remains a strong high school basketball state and bringing back a separate tourney for the big schools allows more opportunities for fans to watch basketball. It’s a great way to battle our long winters and would have certainly been welcome this season.
Some may also advocate for returning the big-school tourney to Bangor at the still new and basketball friendly Cross Insurance Center. This would be great for Bangor High, but the traveling would be unfair to all the other schools in that division: Lewiston, Oxford Hills, Windham, Edward Little, Portland, Deering and Cheverus.
The various Maine Principals’ Association committees which have worked diligently on the five-class proposal may want to stay focused on that plan, which goes to a membership vote on April 30. However, given a fairly strong likelihood that the plan will pass, some time should also be now used to start considering the best format for the five tourneys.