When the newly-aligned division 3A Rams start the fall sport season next year, something else will be different.
Roberson is currently in the Mountain Athletic Conference (MAC), a division of North Carolina’s state athletic structure, and has been a member of the MAC for a stretch of over 20 years. However, the new alignment will move the Rams into a new conference for the first time in decades.
Roberson was first entered into the MAC around 1993, as it had previously been in the WAC (Western Athletic Conference) and a few others throughout the years.
In 2009, Roberson’s classification was moved to the largest division, 4A, but remained in the MAC as the state defined it as a 3A/4A split conference.
The 2017 alignment will adjust other schools, drop TC down a classification, and establish a new conference, the Western MAC or WMAC, comprised of only 3A schools.
A new conference will also mean new schools to go up against. The WMAC will now encompass Tuscola, West Henderson, and North Henderson along with all the teams the school currently plays, except for McDowell.
For many coaches, the move is a welcomed change. Athletic Director Laura Beatty said that competing against schools with a similar number of students will definitely benefit the school’s athletic programs.
“As a 4A school, we are competing against schools in some sports that have twice the number of students we have. So I see it as a very positive change that we’re going from 4A to 3A,” Beatty said.
Head volleyball coach Michelle Wagaman agreed that moving down to 3A will give the teams more opportunities to succeed.
“I think overall, for all sports, it could be a really good move and give some of our teams opportunities to go further maybe in playoffs. I think in general, it will be a good move for us,” Wagaman said.
With the change, some coaches are anticipating more competitive regular seasons now that only one conference champion will be named in each sport, unlike what would happen in a split conference.
“It takes away the split conferences. It’ll make it more competitive from top to bottom,” head football coach Jason Dinwiddie said.
The new conference will be made up of nine schools from three counties. Now, a number of games against schools that were a usually non-conference events will affect conference standings.
Wagaman said a couple of the teams being brought into the conference have given the Ram volleyball some trouble in the past. She thinks the new arrangement may bring a new level of difficulty.
“We’re adding North Henderson, West Henderson, and Tuscola. Those right there are two out of the three losses we’ve had,” Wagaman said.
The state has presented four drafts of the new structures. Unless unusually drastic changes occur, TC will find itself in an entirely new conference for the first time in recent memory.