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Stunning! KHSAA splits up Bullitt County Teams

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By Mike Farner

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - Just call it Black Tuesday.

That was the feeling last week when Bullitt County school officials learned that in a move that was equal parts shocking, upsetting and surprising, that the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Board of Control had voted to realign the Sixth and Seventh Regions for the next two school years. That change included splitting the three Bullitt County schools into separate districts.

This all comes just six years after the Bullitt County programs were moved from the Eighth Region to the Sixth Region. Now, the three teams will all be part of a newly revamped Seventh Region.

Starting next fall (last week's vote only concerned basketball, but it is believed that in April that the Board of Control will vote to have the changes also include volleyball, soccer, baseball and softball), Bullitt Central and North Bullitt will be part of the 27th District along with Southern, Moore and Evangel.

The shift was bigger for Bullitt East as they will move into the 28th District where they will compete with Fern Creek and Whitefield Academy along with defending girls' state champion Mercy and presently the second-ranked boys' team in Kentucky -- Jeffersontown.

Over the past several months, the Bullitt County schools were well aware that the KHSAA was working on a possible realignment of the Sixth and Seventh Regions. Two years ago, Bullitt East athletic director Bob Blackburn was on a committee that came up with a proposal to realign the two regions, but that recommendation was voted down by the Board of Control as being unnecessary since the state will be making a major realignment that will start with the 2013-2014 school year.

The word from the Board of Control at that time was that they wanted member schools to have more input. Now, a year closer to the major realignment, and with less input from the Bullitt County schools, the Board of Control gave the go-ahead to a drastic overall of the 6th and 7th regions that seems heavily weighted to the east end schools in Jefferson County.

"I am not pleased with the decision to reject our request to place our schools in a region together where we could actually have a meaningful voice," Bullitt County School Superintendent Keith Davis said in an email to the Pioneer News on Wednesday. "It seems that the Board of Control actually punished us for making a reasonable request by splitting us up in a way most advantageous to non-Bullitt County schools. There seems to be more politics being played in sports than in the legislature."

Last fall, Bullitt County Director of Secondary Schools David Marshall wrote a letter to the Board of Control and KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett asking that the three Bullitt County schools be moved out of the Louisville regions and into either the Fifth or the Eighth Regions.

Since that time, both Jefferson County and Bullitt County representatives were working under the assumption that the Bullitt County schools would be moved out of the Jefferson County regions. As little as two weeks ago, all three schools thought it was a done deal that they would be moved to the Fifth Region and into a district with Fort Knox High School.

At the same time, Jefferson County officials were coming up with a plan for realignment within the two regions without involving the Bullitt County schools since everyone thought that the KHSAA was set to move them south.

Sometime between Tuesday, Feb. 1 and three days later, the KHSAA changed direction. Jefferson County then came up with the plan that ended up incensing Bullitt County administrators. Not only were the Bullitt County schools going to be part of the Jefferson County regions still, but because of the late changes required, were for the first time in 31 years going to have to compete in separate districts.

On Feb. 4, Marshall, at the request of the three Bullitt County athletic directors, sent another letter to Tackett.

"As the time for decision making nears, we would like to reiterate and request that Bullitt County's three high schools be placed together in either the 5th or the 8th Region, with the 8th being our top choice," Marshall's letter says.

The letter then listed three possible scenarios. The first request being to move of all three schools to the 5th or 8th Region. In what then might have opened the door to the Board of Control thinking that it was acceptable to split the Bullitt County schools within a Region, Marshall's letter listed a second option that would have put Bullitt East and Bullitt Central into the 8th Region and North Bullitt into the 5th.

The third option in the letter was for any two teams into the 5th and one into the 8th.

Marshall's letter summed up the three options with the notation "that would be preferable than returning to the 6th and/or 7th."

Splitting the teams within districts in the same region is strange. Bullitt County's admission that they would accept splitting them by region is a perfect indicator of just how badly Bullitt County wants out of Jefferson County for athletics.

This all happened just months after the KHSAA put all three Bullitt County schools in the same district for football for the first time in 31 years.

North Bullitt athletic director Bill Robinette said that it was his understanding that Jefferson County drew up three proposals for the Board of Control - two of the proposals were made without the Bullitt County schools while one included the three local programs.

What seems to have been completely overlooked is that the Board of Control could have simply voted to maintain the status quo for the next two years until the major realignment is completed as they did a year ago. There really is no viable reason at this point for altering the landscape of local basketball.

Now, with this move, and another possible move in two years, that would mean that the Bullitt County schools would have played in four different regions and five different districts in a ten-year time span.

Each of the three athletic directors pointed out that moves like that make it impossible to develop any traditions and rivalries.

In terms of basketball, none of the three athletic directors thought that this move would change their financial picture drastically. The first thought is that the Bullitt County schools will continue to play each other home-and-away each of the next two years. The biggest basketball gates of the season for each of the schools are the two intra-county contests as well as the homecoming game.

However, with having to add four teams to the schedules starting next season as district opponents, Bullitt East AD Bob Blackburn was not ready to say for sure that he could continue playing his intra-county rivals twice a season, although, that would be what he would like to see happen.

Obviously, another era in Bullitt County basketball is about to begin.