Chambers Academy staying put in the AISA

Published 10:30 am Saturday, August 12, 2023

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Reports are circulating that several Alabama Independent School Association programs are going to move to the Alabama High School Athletic Association.

Radio host D. Mark Mitchell has reported that Lee-Scott Academy is one of the four schools, a regular opponent on Chambers Academy schedule. However, anyone wondering if the Rebels might be leaving can stop wondering — Chambers Academy is staying in the AISA.

“We’ve been in the AISA for over 50 years now, and we don’t plan on going anywhere,” Allen said. 

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There may be some time before the schools who are considering a move make it public. 

“Those schools will not declare their intentions for another month or so from what I understand,” Chambers Academy Head Coach Jason Allen said. 

There are positives and negatives to being a member of each association. Some schools may not see the possible negatives before they decide to make the jump. 

“Well, they’re going to find out,” Allen said. “Everybody’s gotta do what they think is best for them. Sometimes in life, we all know, we think the grass is greener, and it may not be greener on the other side.”

A key reason for some schools wanting to jump to the AHSAA is the amount of opponents they could face. In total, the AISA only has 79 membership schools. The AHSAA currently has around 400 membership schools. 

“I think, from what I’m hearing from them, the travel would definitely not be as bad,” Allen said. “That would give them a lot more schools to choose from to play, and that’s not just varsity. That’s junior high sports and everything else.” 

The AISA is not as big as it once was. Allen still has a lot of support and admiration for the organization that he has worked in for most of his career. 

“I tell you, the AISA has been really good to me,” Allen said. “It’s given me a job for 20+ years and put food on the table. I love the AISA. I think we have some things that the Alabama High School [Association] should be jealous of, and that’s our camaraderie and our family feel. We take care of one another, and we give our kids a safe opportunity to be educated and to play athletics.”  

Despite the difference in the number of schools in each association, Allen is a firm believer in the “bigger is not always better” mantra. 

“If you’re bigger, you can offer more opportunities, but smaller sometimes is better too,” Allen said. “You can offer more intimacy, or a more family environment and maybe even rivalries. Each one has their pros and cons.” 

Allen does not hold any hard feelings for the schools that are applying to go to the AHSAA. Allen believes that each school should do what is in their best interest, and he believes staying in the AISA is in Chambers Academy’s best interest. 

Chambers Academy will open their season next Thursday against Lee-Scott Academy. In the past, Chambers Academy’s biggest rival has been Springwood. Springwood moved to 8-man football last season, and that rivalry has ended for the moment. 

Lee-Scott has become somewhat of a new rivalry for Chambers Academy. The two have played each other to start the season every year since 2018. With Lee-Scott applying to join the AHSAA, that rivalry could also be going by the waste-side. 

“I would hate to lose that rivalry game,” Allen said. “I got some good friends on their coaching staff. We look forward to playing those guys. We’ve been pretty successful over the last seven or eight years. They are a much bigger school than we are, probably close to triple the size. We always have competitive games, and our fans and our people seem to get along. We like to try to beat each other, but there’s no bad blood between the schools.” 

The proximity between Lee-Scott and Chambers Academy makes it a pretty natural rivalry between the two teams. If that rivalry does end, Chambers Academy is ready to adjust. 

“We would hate to lose that, and it’s right down the road, but if it happens we’ll adjust and we’ll make due,” Allen said. “We’ll figure things out, and we’ll get somebody to take their place.” 

If Chambers Academy ever decided to move to the AHSAA, Allen believes that the board and the people of the community should make that decision. 

“Coaches and administrators come and go everyday,” Allen said. “I don’t think any coach or any athletic director or any head of school should be able to make that decision because they can quit or be fired. We can all be gone tomorrow. The people that have got to live with that decision the rest of their kid’s lives, they’re the ones that need to make those decisions.”