The state’s largest prep basketball classification has had to deal with scheduling challenges in the first year of the current biennium cycle.
There are now nine teams in the 6A West Conference, with Fort Smith Northside joining the West team, which previously consisted of eight teams. Prior to this cycle, Northside was in the central conference separating the two Fort Smith schools, as Southside stayed west.
The last time the 6A-West had a nine-team conference was in the 2005-06 school year when Springdale Har-Ber, a year before he played varsity football, competed in the other varsity sports including volleyball, basketball , baseball, softball and soccer. The conference used a 16-game schedule that year. The following year, Russellville moved east to 7A-Central, leaving 7A-West with a standard eight-team format.
Basketball, perhaps more than other sports outside of football, has to deal with all sorts of time challenges that didn’t exist around 17 years ago. There are now four cities with two schools in the conference, making it difficult to agree home dates on Tuesday and Friday nights as most schools want homecoming or color day on a Friday.
The conference’s athletic directors sought input from the league’s coaches, and eventually all issues were ironed out.
“There were some criteria that everyone agreed on from the start,” said Southside Boys basketball coach Stewart Adams. “In the four cities with two teams, we have to make sure that when one team is at home, the other is away. Everyone wanted at least four Friday home games because that’s when you have your homecoming. Also wanted to try and balance the open dates, keep back-to-back home or street dates to a minimum. You can’t do it perfectly, but we wanted to meet these most important criteria first.
Springdale athletic director Wayne Stehlik said the new schedule hit those key marks.
“I was so impressed with the coaches’ work in creating this schedule,” Stehlik said. “They worked on several models until they found this one that we would all accept.”
The schedule has some unique twists, Adams said.
“The team you play week one might not be the first time you play through second time,” Adams said. “The main thing was the home game schedule of the two school cities and that each team gets four home games on Friday night.”
The new schedule, along with the Arkansas Activities Association’s newly passed rule now allowing for a 30-game regular season schedule, gives schools more flexibility trying to fit a 16-game conference roster within that 30-game limit.
“I love the new format, how we can manipulate our schedule to play 30 games,” said Bentonville girls’ coach Tom Halbmaier. “If you have a young team, 30 individual games is an advantage because you can practice a bit between games. Also, you rarely get three games in a row during a state tournament, so you might not get into an in-season tournament that has a three-game-in-three-day format.”
A new wrinkle is the open date, with nine teams and 18 game dates, each team will have two open dates and balancing was also a complication.
“I like the farewell dates,” said Halbmaier. “It could give a team the ability to schedule a game and put in the date. I’m already looking at this open data and seeing what kind of teams I could add to the schedule.”
One place where the 6A West teams could find games could be the 6A Central, which only has seven teams. Each team will have 16 games and two open dates in the 18-game schedule.
The coaches and sporting directors have also decided not to play three-game weeks, as was the case in 2005. Instead, the teams will play two conference games in December – on December 20th and 22nd.
“We didn’t want the three-game weeks because we could get that situation (because of possible winter weather),” Adams said. “The weather is usually a bit better before January 1st, so we decided to host two games in December. There are a lot of small school conferences that play league games before Christmas so this is not unique.”
With COVID-19 cancellations in 2021 and winter postponements in 2022, Stehlik said it made sense to move games to December.
“We knew the coaches would create one schedule with games in December and another schedule with three game weeks starting in January,” Stehlik added. “The last two seasons of cancellations have been a lesson for all of us that it’s important to be flexible. We had no problem with conference games in December.”
2022-23 6A-West Basketball Schedule
Friday 17 December 2022
Bentonville West @ Bentonville (boys)
Saturday 18 December 2022
Bentonville West @ Bentonville (Girls)
Tuesday, December 20, 2022
FS Southside @ Bentonville West
Rogers Heritage @ Springdale Har-Ber
Thursday 22 December 2022
Springdale @ Rogers legacy
Rogers @ Springdale Har-Ber
Bentonville @ FS Southside
FS Northside @ Bentonville West
Tuesday, January 3, 2023
FS South Side @ Springdale
Springdale Har-Ber @ FS Northside
Friday January 6th
Springdale @ Bentonville West
Bentonville @ Springdale Har-Ber
Rogers Heritage @ FS Southside
FS North Side @ Fayetteville
Tuesday January 10th
Springdale Har-Ber @ Springdale
Rogers @FS Northside
Bentonville West @ Rogers Legacy
Fayetteville @ Bentonville
Friday January 13th
Springdale Har-Ber @ Fayetteville
FS south side @ FS north side
Roger’s Legacy @ Bentonville
Bentonville West @ Rogers
Tuesday, January 17, 2023
Springdale Har-Ber @ FS Southside
FS North Side @ Bentonville
Fayetteville @ Rogers Legacy
Friday, January 20, 2023
Springdale @ FS Northside
Bentonville West @ Springdale Har-Ber
FS South Side @ Fayetteville
Rogers legacy @ Rogers
Tuesday, January 24, 2023
Rogers @FS Southside
FS Northside @ Rogers Legacy
Fayetteville @ Bentonville West
Friday, January 27, 2023
Springdale @ Springdale Har-Ber
FS north side @ Rogers
Rogers Heritage @ Bentonville West
Tuesday, January 31, 2023
Fayetteville @ Springdale Har-Ber
FS north side @ FS south side
Rogers @ Bentonville West
Bentonville @ Rogers Legacy
Friday February 3, 2023
Rogers Legacy @ Springdale
Springdale Har-Ber @ Rogers
FS South Side @ Bentonville
Bentonville West @ FS Northside
Tuesday February 7, 2023
Springdale @ FS Southside
FS Northside @ Springdale Har-Ber
Bentonville @ Bentonville West
Friday February 10, 2023
Bentonville West @Springdale
Springdale Har-Ber @ Bentonville
FS Southside @ Rogers Legacy
Fayetteville @ FS north side
Tuesday February 14, 2023
Springdale @ Bentonville
FS South Side @ Rogers
Rogers Heritage @ FS North Side
Bentonville [email protected]
Friday February 17, 2023
Springdale Har-Ber @ Rogers Heritage
Bentonville West @ FS Southside
Tuesday February 21, 2023
Springdale @ Rogers
FS Southside @ Springdale Har-Ber
Bentonville @ FS Northside
Roger’s legacy @ Fayetteville
Friday February 24, 2023
FS North Side @ Springdale
Springdale Har-Ber @ Bentonville West
Fayetteville @ FS Southside
Rogers @ Rogers legacy