The nine athletic directors of the the Three Rivers Conference (TRC) schools are expected to meet Wednesday and try to iron out schedules for the 2020-2021 sports season.The task will not be an easy one in the majority of sports.
Football is limited to seven regular season games and most other sports have a maximum of 14 contests. With nine TRC schools a round-robin football schedule is not possible. The odd number also leaves one conference team without an opponent each week. It will be difficult to find non-conference opponents with everyone across the state working with the reduction in playing dates.
Volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball will be unable to play “home and home” series with each of the other eight members since that necessitates 16 contests.
Men’s and women’s tennis is the least affected by scheduling despite an overlap with softball. Last year the TRC moved to meeting each team once in league play. This should allow the tennis teams to play each other once beginning in the third week of the season. Non-conference matches could be scheduled during the first two weeks.
Men’s and women’s soccer should also work out smoothly since Fairmont traditionally has not fielded soccer teams. This reduces the league to eight teams and allows all schools to play twice.
It is very possible the seven 2A schools (East Bladen, Fairmont, Red Springs, St. Pauls, South Columbus, West Bladen and Whiteville) will all play each other in football and in the other sports (with the exception of tennis) twice. What remains to be seen is how 1A East Columbus and West Columbus will factor into the scheduling. Automatic and “wild card” playoff berths will be based on conference record only this year. This makes who you play once or not at all or maybe who you don’t play a big factor in the conference results.
Can you imagine a random drawing for spots 1-9 with the games predetermined (1 plays 2, then 3, then 4, etc.) and the draw resulting in Whiteville not playing South Columbus in football?
South Columbus athletic director and first-year Three Rivers Conference president Russell Dove also indicated dealing with overlapping schedules and avoiding volleyball and basketball teams scheduled at the same venue on the same date is a concern. Exams and holiday breaks are something else that must be considered. Those weeks may need to be used for conference contests and they are dealing with the nuances of four different LEA’s calendars. Dove said, “Everyone is going to have be willing to sacrifice at some point. It isn’t possible for everyone to get what they want.” Did Whiteville’s David Smith pick a great time to retire or what!
One other consideration is the finish of men’s soccer matches on pitches without lights. Sunset moves from 5:30 pm to just beyond 6 p.m. in our area during the Jan. 25 to March 12 men’s soccer regular season. Playing on the football field is a possibility, but how well will the dormant grass fields hold up to the additional activity.
In addition to Dove, TRC athletic directors include Bobby Godwin (East Columbus), Jason Jones (West Columbus), Todd Burney (Whiteville), Patty Evers (East Bladen), Travis Pait (West Bladen), Michael Baker (Fairmont), Mat Hunt (St. Pauls) and Chris Howell (Red Springs).
My recommendation is for the nine people listed above to have lots of BC powders on hand! Frankly, the fairest result could mean everyone leaves the meeting unhappy. Undoubtedly, whatever they devise will be highly scrutinized and ultimately criticized. Good luck lady and gentlemen.