For most of the 21st century, Jonesboro has hovered on the edge of joining Arkansas' top high school classification.
Next fall, the Golden Hurricane will finally make that jump.
Jonesboro's move highlighted several changes as the Arkansas Activities Association released its classification numbers for the 2022-24 cycle this week during its annual summer workshop. Jonesboro, which was previously a 6A member for football and in Class 5A for all other sports, is now the 15th largest school district in the state by enrollment -- now making the Golden Hurricane a 7A football school and 6A for all other sports.
As a result, Jonesboro will likely be grouped with six of the current seven Central programs in the top classification -- Cabot, Conway, Bryant, North Little Rock, Little Rock Central and Little Rock Southwest.
The AAA's Competitive Equity Factor could throw a wrinkle into things next cycle. Because the formula is calculated based on the results in a school's previous four seasons, the AAA did not include any of the non-public member schools in its reclassification.
As a result, the structure of football's 7A classification could depend on the performance of Little Rock Catholic this season. The Rockets are currently a 7A program but have accumulated two CEF points over the past three years (two losing conference seasons, one season with a playoff win).
If Catholic finishes with a losing conference record again, it would be classified as "non-competitive," which would then move the Rockets down to 6A. In that case, Jonesboro would likely replace Catholic in the 7A-Central for football.
If the Rockets stayed in 7A, it's possible that Fort Smith Northside -- which has been in the Central -- would shift back to the 7A-West with 17 total teams in the highest classification.
Catholic Coach John Fogleman indicated that the school will follow the AAA's Competitive Equity Factor rules and would likely not petition to stay in the top classification if their teams' performances did not warrant it.
Things get even more complicated with Class 6A football. Pulaski Academy and Little Rock Christian are both guaranteed to move up as a result of the Competitive Equity Factor, meaning that there will be 18 teams rather than the usual 16.
Of the 16 public schools set to comprise Class 6A, Greene County Tech, Jacksonville and Greenbrier will move up from 5A, replacing Jonesboro, Pine Bluff and Little Rock Parkview, the latter pair of which are now 5A football schools.