Carroll County High School’s athletic teams will soon be trading in one river for three, and officials with the school couldn’t be happier.
On Wednesday, the Virginia High School League (VHSL) Alignment Committee unanimously approved Carroll County’s appeal to move from the River Ridge District to the Three Rivers District. The move still has to be approved by the VHSL Executive Committee in February, but Wednesday’s news makes it virtually a foregone conclusion the school will join the Three Rivers District for the 2017-2018 school year.
“I can’t contain how happy I am,” said Carroll County Athletic Director Darrin Matthews, who pleaded Carroll County’s case before the Alignment Committee. “I am excited and I’ve had people I didn’t think would be excited that are excited about it. I am thrilled and look forward with getting on with it. Down the road I think it will benefit everybody at Carroll County.”
Carroll County made the appeal for a variety of reasons – most notably to help boost revenue for a struggling athletic department. The move was also about renewing old rivalries and giving the school more flexibility with scheduling.
Other than Carroll, the other seven River Ridge District schools are based within a 30-minute radius of each other in the Roanoke Valley (Salem, Pulaski County, Hidden Valley, Cave Spring, Blacksburg, Christiansburg, and Patrick Henry-Roanoke). With those teams bringing no more than a handful of fans to games in Hillsville, the school’s athletic department was bringing in less than half of what it was in its old home, the Southwest District.
“Financially we have been taking a hit because it doesn’t seem like Roanoke Valley teams travel as well as we had hoped. We were forewarned by the River Ridge folks this could be a problem, and it has come to fruition,” Carroll County High School Principal Chuck Thompson said. “Our fans travel tremendously well. It was that way in the Southwest District and with our opponents as well. We went to Cave Spring for a girls’ basketball game right before Christmas and it appeared we had more fans than they did for a home game. I’m really proud of our community following our sports programs the way they do. Our student-athletes and our coaches really appreciate it.”
Moving to the Three Rivers District also gives Cavalier teams much more room to work with in regards to scheduling. In the River Ridge, seven of Carroll’s 10 football games were already committed against league teams. Joining the Three Rivers – which includes Floyd County, Giles, Radford, Glenvar and James River – allows Carroll two additional non-district football games each season and four additional games in other sports. Matthews said Carroll has already added Galax and Grayson County to its football schedules for 2017 and 2018 and has heard from other close schools that should help bolster gate revenues even more.
“We are excited because we have a little flexibility in our scheduling. We are excited because we think this may increase some new rivalries, some old New River District rivalries with Giles, Radford and Floyd,” Thompson said. “The competition is good in a variety of sports. It was a unanimous vote 12-0 and we expect the executive committee to finalize it when they meet.”
Matthews said Carroll County had the full support of all Three Rivers District members in making the move. In addition to Galax and Grayson, he said joining the new district would allow Carroll the potential to add teams like Fort Chiswell and George Wythe to the schedule, all of which should provide big gates for the school. Playing the Carroll-Galax football game as a benefit scrimmage in recent years, the VHSL kept one-third of the gate each season. With the game moving back to the regular season, the host school will keep 100 percent of revenues, another big economic boost for the Cavalier athletic program
“I will have to say there are a lot more people that are happy than there are sad by a large margin, and I am hoping this will bring us back to a better status,” Matthews said. “The more I think about it, the better I think it is going to be. It puts us with people that are so much like us. We have a great relationship with Floyd County and we look forward to being able to schedule them in everything now, not just football and basketball. It’s a good rivalry and fans get excited about it. We haven’t played Giles in a long time, but we have played them in JV and 8th grade football in recent years and we had good crowds for those games. I am an old New River District boy and so is their AD. We have already received comments from the other Three Rivers schools talking about how much they look forward to working with us.”
With Carroll being a 4A school, joining a Three Rivers District made up entirely of 2A schools will present challenges for the Cavaliers with seeding for the postseason. The program will need to schedule enough larger schools to maintain fairly high seeds for the playoffs. Carroll’s strongest programs – softball and girls’ basketball – stand to be affected the most in such a scenario. Matthews feels more flexibility in scheduling will help those two programs line up enough tough games to where it won’t be much of an issue.
Many Carroll County fans have longed to get out of the River Ridge District since the school joined the league in 2012-2013. Matthews believes the move to the Three Rivers should be one for the long haul.
“I feel like the relationship with the Three Rivers will be long term,” Matthews said. “Floyd, Giles, Glenvar and Radford are the four schools that have always been in the Three Rivers. I know the leadership at those four schools and the other ADs as well, and those four schools have already told us they will be committed to helping Carroll in whatever we need.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN