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By Allen Wright

Jackson High School has been looking for a new athletic conference to join, and it now has one.

The Jackson School Board voted unanimously to approve the switch from the Capital Area Activities Conference (CAAC) to the Southeastern Conference White Division for all Jackson High sports teams beginning in the 2018-19 school year.

The SEC White, a six-school league in 2016-17, will add Pinckney to the conference for the 2017-18 year before Jackson makes it an eight-team league the following season. Jackson’s enrollment of 1,246 would make it the third-largest school in the SEC White. In addition to newcomer Pinckney (1,279), the SEC White includes Adrian (794), Chelsea (867), Dexter (1,146), Tecumseh (832), Ypsilanti (1,115) and Ypsilanti Lincoln (1,404).

The Red Division includes Ann Arbor Huron (1,589), Ann Arbor Pioneer (2,055), Ann Arbor Skyline (1,752), Monroe (2,046), Saline (1,923) and Temperance Bedford (1,597). There are no plans for expanding the SEC Red.

The CAAC consists of eight teams, seven of which are considered Lansing area. The SEC White will have eight teams, each of which has its own geographic region.

“Each school (in the SEC) has its own sense of community,” Jackson High Athletic Director Jack Fairly said earlier this month. “The CAAC has been good to us, but being from the Jackson area, we’re down here by ourselves. Teams in (the SEC) all have their own community, whereas the CAAC was really a greater-Lansing conference and then us.”

Joining a conference that didn’t increase travel was also an important dynamic. The distance between Jackson and every school in the SEC White ranges from 26-51 miles while the distance between Jackson and the CAAC schools ranged from 32-49 miles. Additionally, the annual SEC league fee is $700, compared to $3,125 in the CAAC.

Starting this fall in 2017 Pinckney comes back to the SEC after it left in to join the Kensington Lakes Activities Association (KLAA) in 2000. The Pirates held rivalries with Dexter and Chelsea, as well as Tecumseh, still playing an annual basketball game with the Dreadnaughts.

Pinckney was looking for a good conference fit and as their enrollment falls they will be on pace with several of the other schools in the SEC White.

“We’re joining a conference where schools have some of the strongest programs in the state,” Pinckney Athletic Director Brian Wardlow said. “But it does allow us to get back into a more level playing field and against some of our neighbors. This seemed like a natural fit, even on more levels than athletics.”

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