One of the state’s most enduring interscholastic athletic rivalries will give way to school consolidation this fall, when Jay and Livermore Falls begin fielding joint teams in all sports.
And the impact of that move likely will extend to the northern reaches of the Maine high school football world.
School committees representing RSU 36 (Livermore Falls) and Jay voted separately Tuesday to unify their high school co-curricular programs as of July 1, a year ahead of what previously had been anticipated, according to Livermore Falls athletic administrator Sally Boivin.
That decision also means the unified Jay-Livermore Falls high school athletic teams will move from Western Maine Class C to Western B this fall based on their combined school enrollment of 571 as of April 1, 2010, the date used for assigning school athletic programs for the next two-year classification cycle that begins with the 2011-12 academic year.
While the consolidation likely won’t result in major scheduling changes in most sports during the coming school year — both Jay and Livermore Falls currently are members of the Mountain Valley Conference, which already has one other Class B program in Mountain Valley of Rumford — it will have an immediate impact in football.
With the move of Jay-Livermore Falls from Western C to Western B, Western C football will have 12 schools while Western B would have 13, leaving Western B in the peculiar situation of having to schedule an odd number of teams with the same amount of regular-season games.
A similar scenario is being played out in the LTC (Eastern Maine Class C), which also has 13 schools with the recent addition of Washington Academy of East Machias.
LTC officials have been waiting for a potential Jay-Livermore Falls sports consolidation and its fallout before firming up its 2011 schedule, and now that the change is official, the Maine Principals’ Association is working on scenarios for this fall with the desired goal of having all high school football divisions statewide with an even number of teams.
One possible solution would begin with the MPA’s classification committee increasing the current Class C maximum school enrollment for football from 499 students to 525. That would allow Poland High School — with its enrollment of 520 — to move from Western B to Western C, giving Western B just 12 teams while leaving Eastern C and Western C with 13 teams each.
Then one of two additional scenarios could play out. One could involve the shift of one of the southernmost schools in Eastern C, either Winslow — which is dropping from Class B to Class C by enrollment in football this fall and already is a Western Maine school in wrestling — or Mount View of Thorndike, to Western C. The second would have one of the easternmost schools in Western C, Maranacook of Readfield or Boothbay, move to Eastern C.
Either case would leave both Eastern C and Western C with an even number of teams, providing a much more convenient scheduling formula for both divisions that would not require any crossover games that often require extensive travel.
“The strategy is to find a school willing to move one way or another, and we’re working on it,” said MPA assistant executive director Jeff Sturgis.
Class A, with 10 teams in the East and 14 in the West, and Eastern B, with 14 teams, would not be affected by any pending changes.
“The silver lining for us in all of this is we’re now guaranteed playing an eight-game schedule with no byes followed by an eight-team playoff,” said Mike Archer, athletic administrator at Orono High School and a member of the LTC scheduling committee.
Boivin said residents of the neighboring Livermore Falls and Jay school districts voted in January to consolidate, with plans for that to take place at the middle-school level this fall and at the high school level in 2012.
The middle-school consolidation is on schedule, she added.
But a proposal to extend that consolidation to the freshman classes from both high schools for the 2011-12 academic year was presented formally last week. In conjunction with that came a proposal to merge the two high school co-curricular programs as of July 1 so those freshmen would not be attending classes together during the day beginning this fall and then competing for separate entities after school, Boivin said.
But while the freshman consolidation proposal for 2011-12 was voted down Tuesday by both boards, the co-curricular merger was approved by one-vote margins by both the RSU 36 and Jay boards.
Boivin said two immediate issues now faced in preparing to field joint Jay-Livermore Falls high school teams in a matter of months involve purchasing uniforms and hiring coaches.
Students at the Jay and Livermore Falls high schools and middle schools as well as fifth-graders from the two communities already have been working on coming up with a new school name, nickname and school colors for uniforms and other uses in anticipation of the eventual consolidation of the schools and their athletic programs, Boivin said. A final vote on those issues by the combined student body is scheduled for April 5.
Boivin also said she has spoken with Rockland District High School athletic administrator Jim Leonard about strategies for hiring coaches for the consolidated Jay-Livermore Falls teams, since Leonard is involved with a similar process with the pending consolidation of Rockland and Georges Valley high schools into Oceanside High School this year.
In the Oceanside situation, the first option is for current varsity coaches from the two consolidating schools to apply for the positions, and Boivin sees a similar scenario possibly playing out in the Jay-Livermore Falls situation.
“Jim said that in his case, in many situations one of the two coaches decided not to return,” said Boivin. “Here it’s going to be a lot more difficult because we’ve got some great coaches at both schools who want to keep coaching.”