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Combined teams will be impacted by formula change

Whether it is due to a lack of participants, financial reasons, or offering a new program, districts are increasingly combining sports teams. However, the final approval to combine teams comes from Section VI Athletics.

“It has been a challenge to keep up with the volume of mergers,” Section VI Executive Director Timm Slade explained. “When schools began combining sports programs about seven years ago, there were only 24 total combined teams. Now, we have to keep up with more than 200 teams in JV, varsity and modified sports.”

Section VI encompasses Niagara, Orleans, Erie, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties and classifies each team AA, A, B, C or D, or a division based on population and sport. Historically, the classification formula has been favorable for districts to explore the option of merging teams, but that trend may be changing (see chart below).

“Starting in the 2018-2019 school year, there is a new classification formula,” Slade said.

Depew’s wrestling team merged with Cleveland Hill a few years ago and has been competitive in Division 2. However, the new calculation will place the combined wrestling team in Division 1 with much larger schools as their competition.

“The year we decided to combine our wrestling team, we finished the season with four healthy wrestlers. Cleveland Hill didn’t have a wrestling program, so adding them to our team gave their students a fresh opportunity and created a viable program,” Depew Athletic Director Brian Wilson said.

The new calculation pushes the schools’ combined formula number from under the 600 threshold number to 737, meaning they must now compete in Division 1.

“We will now be Depew-Cleveland Hill JV Girls Soccer player Zoe Harris kicks a soccer ball.competing with schools with numbers from 600 into the thousands across the state. In terms of strength of a class in Division 1 or Division 2, that comes down to the luck of the draw. However, most of these schools have a larger pool to pull from. We are going to do our best to prepare our athletes for the change,” Wilson said.

In a similar situation to the wrestling program, Depew and Cleveland Hill will field combined JV boys and girls soccer teams this fall.

Wilson explained the upcoming merger is a good fit because Depew hasn’t had a JV team in two years due to a lack of numbers and Cleveland Hill had not previously offered the program.

“On the one hand, it has been hard for us moving athletes right from modified to varsity, so we’re hoping this will help our feeder program in addition to providing the students with a new opportunity. However, instead of a B1 or B2 classification, as would have been the case in the past, we will probably be an A1 school,” Wilson said. “It may be stiffer competition, but our ultimate goal is to provide students with the opportunity to play.”

“While I anticipate the new formula will lessen the desire to combine teams, sports mergers will still happen,” Slade added. “However, it’s a complicated decision to make and I have seen some teams go back and de-merge.”

Formula Example
Class Formula 2017-18  %17-18 Formula 2018-19 % 2018-19
AA 910-Up 50 965-Up 100
A 480-909 40 500-964 100
B 280-479 30 270-499 100
C 170-279 30 150-269 40
D 169-Below 20 149-Below 30


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