By T.J. Morgan, Freelance Sports Writer
At 8:00 AM EST on August 23rd of 2004, the KHSAA president convened a special meeting of the Board of Control, at which, all members were present. On the agenda for that late summer morning was realignment for high school basketball in the state of Kentucky.
Just over a month had passed since their last regular meeting on July 16th of 2004. It was during that meeting that the chair of the Basketball Realignment Ad Hoc Committee felt it noteworthy that the board adopts into the official minutes that one of the main goals of the committee was to align schools geographically. A goal that is absolutely honorable for a committee challenged with creating the most ideal landscape for basketball across the bluegrass. In their August meeting that wouldn’t adjourn until 3:00 PM EST, the KHSAA Board of Control would vote unanimously to pass their draft realignment for the state, forever changing the terrain of basketball across Kentucky.
While geography was top of mind for KHSAA and their committee, the only four 2-hour in-region commutes in the Commonwealth would remain intact within the 4th region. In addition, missed in their devotion to geographical proximity, the committee would add a fifth, 2-hour in-region trip, with the introduction of Russell County into the 4th region.
As Monroe County would exit the 16th district and look to find success in the 15th district, Russell County would leave the 47th district and join the 16th, alongside Clinton County, Cumberland County, and Metcalfe County. Although remaining devout to geographical consideration, now 4th region, 16th district Russell County would travel through 5th region, 20th district Adair County to play against two of their three district opponents, and 14 of their then 15 region opponents.
It is easy to believe that the geography of the 16th district would not be top of mind for the KHSAA. Out of 120 counties in the bluegrass state, when ranked by population, Metcalfe County ranks 99th, while Clinton County ranks 100th, and Cumberland is one of the least populated counties in the state at 116th. Not exactly a setup for financial or political influence that some areas may offer governing bodies. That fact would hit home even more so on January 19th of last year, when the KHSAA board would unanimously vote to assemble the 16th into a five-team district. Despite objections from Metcalfe County Superintendent, Josh Hurt and other superintendents across the district, Monroe County was granted membership back into the 16th, where Clinton, Cumberland, Metcalfe, and Russell County would also remain. Cumberland, Clinton, Metcalfe, and Monroe County, already fighting the uphill battle of population and wealth disparity that’s very prevalent in the 4th region, now must battle the hardship of a five-team district.
While there may be many debates to be had around Kentucky high school sports, whether the Commonwealth should move to a classed basketball system, if wholesale basketball realignment should be made that significantly changes the landscape of the current 4th region teams; the verdict on the makeup of the 16th district should be clear. A school was haphazardly brought into the 16th district that did not correctly align with the current members. When looking at the alignment solely on a geographical basis, as the KHSAA Commissioner prefers to do, buses should not be driving through different regions for in-district play.
While some problems may be more difficult to navigate, such as deploying the class system or statewide realignment, for an exemplary governing body like the KHSAA, whose significant goal is geographical proximity, the resolution for a misaligned 16th district should be a no-brainer.