Geographical and population concerns could prompt the Georgia High School Association to make the most radical change in more than a decade over how it divides its schools for athletic competition.
The vote is a month away, and nothing has been decided.
The GHSA’s reclassification committee could submit a proposal that has minimal impact — tweaking the existing five-classification structure — or the state governing body for high school sports could initiate significant change, including expansion to six classifications.
Another idea is to reduce to four classifications, with each divided in half for the postseason and offering eight state championships. That concept would allow members to play schools of closer proximity during the regular season, and schools of closer student enrollment during the playoffs.
As to which proposal will be submitted, it’s a big guessing game at this point.
“Right now, this far out, I wouldn’t wager which way we’re going to go,” said Dr. Ralph Swearngin, GHSA executive director. “I really don’t know. We could say we’re going to stay with the current system of five classifications and make some improvements. Or we could go with something radical. It’s too early to tell.”
Schools have complained that their teams have to drive too far for competition. Others have said they are matched unfairly against schools with larger student populations in the playoffs. On March 21, the GHSA executive committee will vote on a proposal finalized the day before by the reclassification committee.
Any voter-approved measures would go into effect in the fall of 2012. The last time the GHSA took an extreme action was for the 2000 season, expanding from four classifications to the existing five.
“We know we’re going to do something, even if it’s tinkering with what we’ve got right now,” Swearngin said. “We’ve recognized we’ve got some issues.”
The GHSA has a list of concerns from its 422 schools, with the main ones addressing proximity (Region 2-AAAA stretches 200 miles from Brunswick to Augusta), equal competition (some teams play others in the same classification with nearly twice the enrollment), and team disparity in a region (1-AAAAA has five teams, while 5-A has 28 from the Atlanta area).
“What are we going to do with the Class AAAAA and Class AAAA schools in South Georgia? That’s a major, major issue,” Swearngin said. “What happens is the people in the north complain because they only have 5-6 teams in a region. People down there complain because they have to drive hundreds of miles to play their games.”
The 12-member reclassification committee is studying high school structures in surrounding states such as South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee.
“It’s a difficult process because everybody has their own idea on what ought to happen,” said Dave Hunter, committee member and former Brookwood football coach. “I represent Class AAAAA, but I’m also concerned about fairness and a level playing field for all classifications. I don’t want to hurt one classification in order to help another.”
Here’s a quick look at the top ideas … [Note: To read the rest of this article, click here]