Eielson, North Pole football unification and basketball realignment discussed at Region VI meeting

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FAIRBANKS, AK This past Monday was the Region VI meeting where some game changing ideas were the topics of discussion. One concept was the co-op of the Eielson Ravens football program combining with the North Pole Patriots for the upcoming season. Head Coach David DeVaughn had this to say in front of the other members.
“Armageddon plan would be to look into a co-op with North Pole. This is not where I think it would be at year 20 as the coach…” said Head Coach DeVaughn.
Combining the programs would be a stark difference for the Ravens who are coming off a championship season. DeVaughn said in the meeting that he was needing at least 17 players to run the football program.
DeVaughn stated that they are having a meeting next week on Tuesday to raise interest in the football program before the May 1 deadline for the Region VI meeting in May. There are still some hurdles to be cleared however as ASAA would have to approve of a 3A school co-oping with a 4A school for football. Eielson has a history of playing with a low number of team members. The Ravens took the state championship in 2012 with only 17 players.
“You would have to, our bylaws would require because North Pole is a 4A school, our bylaws would require for you all to co-op so that would be done at a board meeting.” said Billy Strickland, the Executive Director of ASAA.
Another hot topic that was brought up and tabled was the playoff seeding controversy for state basketball.
For the 3A boys tournament bracket, the Monroe Catholic Rams were forced to face their Aurora Conference foe in the first round in the Valdez Buccaneers due to the Barrow Whalers issue. Barrow played too many games this year forcing them to forfeit some of their games. This gave the Nome-Beltz Nanooks the fourth seed in the tournament despite their record stating otherwise.
“It makes sense for schools close together maybe play, it makes sense that Edgecumbe and Sitka would get games against Ketchikan, as opposed to Ketchikan leaving Southeast because they are chasing WPI points or whatever the case may be,” said Strickland.
In the 3A girls’ bracket, the Hutchison Hawks were once again on the outside looking in after the committee didn’t give the Hawks an at large bid for state. Head Coach Andy Lee spoke about how hard it has been to explain it to his team.
“And as opposed to WPI and the current system, and I just encourage whatever system is chosen in the future that the one criteria is what is important to me that I’m able to articulate it to my student athletes and this year I couldn’t do that,” said Lee.
Also at the meeting, a majority of members wanted the return of the WPI to decide the seeding.
ASAA brought forth their concept of a new classification system for basketball. This would involve five classes, 5A through 1A. The 5A teams would include the top 12 enrolled schools in the state. This would mean the death of the Mid-Alaska Conference here in the Interior with West Valley and Lathrop jumping up to 5A, leaving the North Pole Patriots on the 4A level.
The Wolfpack and the Malemutes would be joining the Northern Lights Conference with Colony, Palmer and Wasilla. North Pole on the other hand would be in the North Star Conference with Monroe, Barrow and Hutchison.
“…Trying to get rid of conferences that would have less than four teams, establish conferences little bit more based on your geography cause of the cost of travel. Then looking at factors beyond just your school’s enrollment to determine the classification,” said Strickland.
The fate of Eielson’s football program could be decided by May 13, while ASAA will be meeting next week on April 24 in Kodiak looking at the potential changes to basketball.