Athletic directors, coaches OK with changes to sports schedules

Some old rivals will be replaced with new ones later this year for high school sports teams.

But for the most part, area high schools are OK with it.

Moriarty High will be the most affected with the Pintos dropping from Class 5A to 4A.

“It is what it is, I just want to compete,” said Moriarty’s head football coach Joe Anaya. “Everybody will be in the same boat as us.”

That “boat” refers to a school’s given classification—based on its enrollment—and its district alignment, all of which falls under the authority of the New Mexico Activities Association, or NMAA.

The NMAA revisits classification and district alignment every two years.

“It’s a continuous process because enrollment numbers change,” said NMAA associate director Dusty Young. “Some enrollments rise, some shift downward, so we try to pair schools with similar numbers,”

Young said the NMAA’s classification process is a difficult one, but in a nutshell, its 160-school membership is divided into various classes. Sports with large participation numbers, such as football and basketball, can have six or even seven classes, while sports such as swimming and diving are lumped into one class.

The largest 72 schools are divided into three groups of 24; the largest 24 schools—Manzano among them—are placed in Class 6A; the next 24 are classified as 5A, and then 4A, respectively.

Smaller schools such as Mountainair and Estancia fall into classes 1A through 3A.

With Moriarty High now below 800 students, it has been one of the smaller 5A schools. Moving Moriarty to 4A will make it one of the larger schools in that class.

But not everyone sees it as an advantage.

“Some people think just because we’re dropping to 4A it’s going to be easy—not at all,” Anaya said.

For schools such as East Mountain, with fewer than 400 students, its classification as a 4A school has been a challenge, being one of the smallest in that class.

In fact, in 2013, when the NMAA bumped East Mountain up to 4A, the school made an unsuccessful attempt to appeal the move.

No such appeal was made this time around.

“We stated as strong a case as we could the last time around and it didn’t bear any fruit so we didn’t feel it was a battle that was worth the effort,” said Dave Naylor, the school’s athletic director and coach. “Do I think we’re a 4A school? No.”

Young said there is always a disparity between the largest school in a given class and the smallest but the NMAA does its best to accommodate all of its member schools.

So the Timberwolves will remain in Class 4A but will shift from District 4 to District 5, where they will square off with Bosque, Sandia Prep, Santa Fe Indian School, and Bernalillo—another school dropping down in class.

Naylor has mixed feelings about the change, particularly with regard to soccer, having to now go up against perennial state champs Sandia Prep twice a season.

“That’s a trade-off,” he said. “But all of those [schools] are under an hour away and I like that.”

Moriarty will take East Mountain’s former spot in District 4 and face Ruidoso, Portales, the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, and newcomer Hope Christian.

“I’m not thrilled about the travel,” said Moriarty’s athletic director and coach, Joe Bailey.

Bailey added that Moriarty had the option to stay a 5A school—essentially playing up in class—which would’ve allowed the Pintos to continue competing against long-standing rival St. Pius. But he said he didn’t think it was “fair to our kids.”

Like East Mountain, Manzano, Estancia and Mountainair will stay in their respective classes but swap some district foes.

Manzano will remain in District 2 and gain Clovis and Santa Fe high schools while losing Highland High.

“I really have no issue with it,” said Manzano’s head football coach Chad Adcox. “It will definitely be interesting to see how things shake out.”

A similar situation will exist for Estancia and Mountainair.

The Bears will gain Cottonwood Classical—an Albuquerque charter school—to its district in basketball and volleyball, and add Española’s McCurdy School to its football schedule.

“For the department as a whole, I think it’s good,” said Estancia’s athletic director and coach, Stewart Burnett. “All in all, we’re pleased with our alignment and look forward to the next two years.”

Likewise, Mountainair will swap Jemez Valley and Albuquerque’s Menaul School for Logan, Dora and Fort Sumner.

“I don’t have a problem with it,” Mountainair’s athletic director Carol Zamora said. “The travel will be a little difficult but it’ll be nice to meet up with different teams.”

The changes take effect this fall with the commencement of the 2016-2017 school year.