Another AISA school closes
By Tim Gayle
Sumter Academy became the second longtime Alabama Independent School Association school to close its doors as headmaster Glen Sanders announced the school’s intentions on Tuesday.
AISA officials circulated Sanders’ e-mail on Tuesday to other schools in the organization to give them some time to find replacements on the athletic calendar. Less than two weeks ago, Sanders had notified AISA athletic director Roddie Beck the school would not field a football team but would remain open despite a dwindling number of students.
But as the school struggled to find enough high school students to remain open, parents began transferring their children to other schools, afraid the school would close.
Sanders, who coached the football program in 1999-2001, is reportedly returning to Mississippi.
The school becomes the second AISA team to close after South Montgomery County Academy announced its decision in April.
Both schools started their football programs in 1970 and both have struggled to maintain coaches and winning seasons over the past few years as school-age students in their respective areas continued to decline.
Sumter Academy hasn’t had a winning season since 2011 and has had five coaches since then. Like SMCA, its location has generated less enrollment, particularly among its male students. Last year, the football team compiled a 1-9 record with its only victory over North River Christian, a former eight-man squad fielding its first team in 11-man football.
The Eagles made the playoffs in their first season and were a mainstay in the state playoffs from 1987-2012, making the playoff field 20 times in that 26-year span. Their most successful football seasons were in 1988 and 2010, reaching the championship game each time.
In 1988, the Class AAA Eagles went 10-0 in the regular season and beat Woodland Christian and Pike Liberal Arts before losing in a battle of 12-0 teams to Morgan Academy, coached by Robert Gartman. In 2010, it was Gartman who coached the Class A Eagles to the state finals, beating South Montgomery in the first round of the playoffs in what would be one of the final highlights for both teams. Gartman’s team scored a school-record 481 points that season but finished 10-3 after losing twice to Coosa Valley, the final time in the championship game in Troy.
The loss of Sumter and SMCA lowers the number of AISA teams to 34, but several eight-man squads are expected to join the AISA ranks in 2018 when a new classification is released.
Meadowview Christian and East Memorial Christian Academy, two members who dropped to eight-man football in recent years, are hopeful of returning to 11-man teams. Success Unlimited Academy is in the process of trying to field an 11-man squad in time for 2018 as well.