Voting day: Which GHSA reclassification plan do you like?

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Ralph Swearngin, executive director of the Georgia High School Association, said he usually has a pretty good idea about what’s going to happen before any major proposals are presented to the state’s governing body for high school athletics.

This time, however, Swearngin said he’s not so sure about the hotly debated of reclassification, or how the GHSA’s 422 member schools will be divided for competition.

Three ideas are being strongly considered, and one of them will be proposed for a vote at Monday’s meeting of the GHSA’s executive committee.

It could be the most radical change among the state’s classifications in more than a decade, or it may be a few tweaks to the existing structure. Swearngin doesn’t have a gut instinct one way or the other.

“People are all over the map with reclassification, and there’s no consensus,” he said. “As we swap ideas, there doesn’t seem to be one plan out of the three main ones that everybody is getting behind right now.”

Geographical and population concerns are prompting a change, which would take effect in fall 2012. Here’s a quick look at the three most popular proposals being discussed by the reclassification committee:

Staying at five classifications

The current system would remain intact, with tweaks such as changing the percentage of schools in each classification. Currently, the state’s largest classification (AAAAA) has the fewest schools with 63, while the smallest classification (A) has the most with 109.

Expanding to six classifications

This plan would be like 2000 all over again, when the classifications increased by one, and perhaps most important, would keep in place all existing procedures, such as playoff brackets.

Reducing to four classifications

Under this model, the GHSA would drop to four classifications and have eight state championships. Under one scenario, there would be eight regions of around 100 schools per class. At the start of the playoffs, the largest 50 schools would play for one state championship (such as Class AA, Division I), while the rest compete for another.

The 12 members of the reclassification committee will meet Sunday in Macon to review each plan before determining which one to reveal the next day. They could also decide not to propose anything, but that is highly unlikely.

“I think most people feel like something needs to be done,” Swearngin said. “The question is how radical of a change do we want to make. We’re not going to change just for the sake of change. It has to be able to solve the problems we’re looking at.”

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Reclassification? Wow. Which plan to do you like and why? My favorite is four classifications and eight state championships. It would allow teams to play more neighborhood rivals during the regular season (hopefully generating more revenue), schools closer to the same size in the playoffs, and then a total of eight state championships, as opposed to five (again, hopefully generating more revenue). Now which do you prefer?

43 comments Add your comment


March 18th, 2011
6:36 am

The more champions the better

Ed Pilcher

March 18th, 2011
8:21 am

8 champions, my butt. This is just another ploy by the GHSA to make more money. 8 championship games in the dome instead of 5 equals that much more $$$$. And that’s it, that’s all….they care about nothing except what will produce the most cash.

Ed Pilcher

March 18th, 2011
8:21 am

Oh, and 2nd………..


March 18th, 2011
8:40 am

expand to 6, put all private schools in one classification…they get to be a part of GHSA rather than gisa…compete against all public schools…but decide a champion from only private schools.


March 18th, 2011
8:40 am

6 class. with private schools moving up to AA and or AAA. They have too much of an advantage than most A schools. Put all powers in AAAAAA and it will be a great class championship. Then have a sole champion for GA. I bet some smaller schools will do well against bigger schools. I dont think GHSA care about A schools anyway. They rarely get any press from AJC or the local news.

William ray

March 18th, 2011
8:41 am

8 champions sounds like rec ball. Everyone gets a trophy. Life is not like that. How about just adopting a rule to limit transferring. That would do more to even the playing field than anything else.

black and silver

March 18th, 2011
8:44 am

4 classifications and 8 champs is lame. You should not have 2 champs per classifications because this isnt tee ball.


March 18th, 2011
8:46 am

Private schools should be required to play up one level. It was for the wrong reasons, but the late Tom Murphy had it right when he temporarily forced that change. Private schools, particularly the Atlanta suburban powerhouses, can recruit from a broad geographic area, while public schools are limited to the athletes who live within their specific school zone. Forcing private schools up one level would help even the odds.

bob atlanta

March 18th, 2011
8:48 am

why not have16 or 32 champions? give everyone a trophy and make being a state champion no big deal. you are right the they need to work on the transferring issue. in some counties like dekalb it is a joke in all sports.

Texas Pete

March 18th, 2011
8:50 am

Let’s go for like 100 state champions so we make sure as many kids as possible are given 1st place trophies for their self esteem as they enter adulthood.


March 18th, 2011
8:51 am

stay with 5 classes and tweak alignments; 8 champions, what a joke
seems most like 6 classes. All will never be happy, but goal should be to posture for competetiveness/proximity so that the student/athletes can first be students, then athletes

Devil's Advocate

March 18th, 2011
9:04 am

Let’s do away with the State Championship Tournament altogether and move towards a high school bowl system. We could have 32 regular bowl games in cities all around the state and our own version of premium BCS-like bowls in the larger cities. Instead of having 4 BCS bowls with one city doubling up for the championship we’ll just have 5 in Atlanta, Rome, Macon, Valdosta, and Savannah having them rotate each of the current 5 classification championships. Now we need to find about 8 good computer programmers, mathmeticians, and analysts to develop programs to rank the teams.

Look people, only one team per classification can win (unless there’s a tie, lol). Let’s give these teams the feeling of winning a bowl game and being a bowl champion! That’s 37 champions total!


March 18th, 2011
9:07 am

I lean towards 6 classifications however I would like to see the data on the FTE (number of students) of all high schools along with thier location to help with the decision. Without question, many of the schools in Cobb, North Fulton, and Gwinnett could almost form their own conference given their size.

I think the current threshold is about 1750+ students for 5A. A school with 2000 students playing a school with 3500 provides a distinct advantage. Is that really any different from a school with 500 students playing a school with 2000?

1st vote

March 18th, 2011
9:20 am

The 1st vote should be to remove Ralph Swearngin. He is not a leader. Until he is gone, the GHSA will continue to be a joke.


March 18th, 2011
9:31 am

We need either 5 or 6 classes. Put the same number of schools in each classification. Do not permit any schools to play up. The solution is simple.


March 18th, 2011
9:44 am

Are they going to look into Buford’s boys starting pg this year? He “moved into” Buford after being at Northview last year as a Junior. He played this year, even though he still lives in the same neighborhood as me in Berkeley Lake. Is that legal?

SEC Fact Finder

March 18th, 2011
9:45 am

This is one of those situations where there is not a “correct” answer, but more aptly it should be a better recipe for a level playing field.

The 28 or so Metro Atlanta Counties have more population than the entire state of Alabama, and in those 28 counties the range of schools competing head to head is in extreme cases a 1000 plus student difference. That is like a BCS school playing a Bowl Sub Division school at the collegiate level.

There is no easy answer, but there does need to be some “tweaks” made to the system as it stands. The easiest answer would be to go to 6 classifications, and not worry so much amout making each class the same in number size as it is important to put schools of the same caliber together. Offer “opt outs” for schools wishing to go up in classification and make the number of schools in the top 3 levels a point of emphasis. Will that solve the issue? No, but it will take a school with over 3500 students away from playing teams with 2000 students unless the teams mutually want to play one another.


March 18th, 2011
10:30 am



March 18th, 2011
10:31 am

Class AAAAA is way too small at present and Class A is way too large. As far as the disparity in enrollment in Class AAAAA, how much difference does that make. Of the four semifinalists last year in Class AAAAA in football, Brookwood and Collins Hill were among the larger Class AAAAA schools, while Colquitt County was among the smallest and Grayson was inn the middle. Valdosta and Hillgrove, who were in the quarterfinals, also were some of the very smallesdt schools in Class AAAAA.


March 18th, 2011
10:35 am

We do the subdivision of 5 classes here in NC and it is a failure. Bad seeding It makes the regular season meaningless.

Loran, Whatayagot?

March 18th, 2011
10:36 am

What they really need to address is the recruiting and “shopping around” of elite players to elite programs. Many players are apartment dwellers and can change schools on a whim to be on a better team with no restrictions. That’s why the same teams win championships every year.


March 18th, 2011
10:37 am

Yes, we need something done about “open enrollment” city schools like Buford. Buford is fielding a Gwinnett “all-star” teams because of their situation. Other city schools are doing the same thing.
Solution: If you don’t live within the city limits, you cannot participate in sports at these schools.

Valdosta Wildcat

March 18th, 2011
11:04 am

I think the best solution is similar to college football. Teams compete in 1-A in basketball and 1-AA in football. Other teams are independent in one sport and conference-affiliated in another sport. Allow teams to opt in to a higher bracket for all sports or one sport. This way, the Savannah schools could play 5A basketball and 3A in other sports. Camden could join region 1-5A in football (where travel is easier on a weekend) and play the coastal schools in other sports.

I see the other possiblity of shrinking the number of classifications. Valdosta in 2010, Northside in 2009,etc. have proven that the smallest schools in 5A can compete with the big schools. Go back to four or even three classifications by splitting 4A and 2A. Schools such as Bainbridge, TCC, Northside, Warner Robins, Tucker,etc. are capable of playing with Valdosta, Lowndes, Camden, etc. The smaller 4A schools could move down to compete in 3A and so on. This would grow the numbers and cut regular season travel for teams.

cat doc

March 18th, 2011
11:04 am

Get the private schools out. Put them in thier own league. If the parents want thier kids in private schools, let them play all games with private schools. I’m sick and tired of the recuriting at the highschool level. Make it fair for all.


March 18th, 2011
11:33 am

When I officiated basketball in Arkansas they had 4 divisions and at the end of the year the champs played a four team tournament. One year the 1A team won the boys championship and there were no private school in the tournament.


March 18th, 2011
11:37 am

the last time I looked Texas and Pennsylvania have about 20 state champions. They play 11,8 and 6 man footbal plus there are 6 subdided classes in footbal


March 18th, 2011
12:21 pm

Forcing private schools to play up a class isn’t the answer. For every Wesleyan that would have the playing field leveled by better competition there would be multiple private schools like Pinecrest that would get beat 100-4 every night.

I’d like to see a results-oriented system for private schools. In AAU ball if a team enters the D2 state tournament and wins it, the next year they must play DI. If a private school wins a state championship then they get bumped up at the next realignment. That would reduce the number of 56-0 football games and 73-12 basketball games.

Scot Waldrop

March 18th, 2011
1:23 pm

The problem is 2 fold. The threshold is 1950, which means that some school with say 2000 students has to compete with others that have over 3500.

The 2nd issues relates to small, rural schools, competing with private schools and city systems that are located amidst large suburban populations. I think the answer to that is to simply require all varsity athletes to live in the schools service area. Private school service areas must also be addressed because an entire county is too large.

If a private or city schools allow an out of district player to participate, they should be classified in that players home school classification. Example, if Buford accepts a kids who lives in the N. Gwinnett district, they would have to play in the classification (5A). Buford would have to decide whether they really want the kid, or require that he move to Buford and be part of the actual community. What a concept.

OLD GOLD Panther

March 19th, 2011
9:18 am

There is no difference between a school with 3000 students and a school with 2000 students when it comes to football. People act like schools are just filled with nothing but boys. A school with 3000 students will roughly have half of the students be boys so thats about 1500 and it would be 1000 for a school with 2000 students. Whoa big difference. Then they act like every boy in the school is trying out for football. Like its a big football war time draft or something. You will probably get about 70-80 boys who come out for football(a lil more if you are a powerhouse) and those numbers will dwindle as it gets closer to the season. And this will hold true for schools with populations to about 1400-1500 students. (Unless the program is just horrible) So its really more of an even playing field than most think. I don’t know why people think these schools with “big populations” will just beat everybody down cuz they are so big. LOL

And to this so called “recruiting” that everybody is against. It’s really more of students transfering to better programs than schools recruiting. I mean for real people what else can a high school coach offer besides a starting position. I can see the ajc headline now, High school coach offers parent $10,000 so a child can come play for him. LOLOL People transfer for academic reasons all the time, parents want their childern to go to the best school, so they can go to college. It’s no different with sports. Why do I want my child to attend a home school where he has little chance of excelling when he can go 20 miles down the road and have a oppurntinty to get a scholarship.


March 19th, 2011
9:54 am

Valdosta Wildcat – Good post I think that would be a perfect solution .


March 19th, 2011
11:53 am

6 with all private schools in one classification.



March 19th, 2011
1:07 pm

let all the private,and city schools play for there on championship since they have players on there team that DO NOT LIVE in there city limits


March 19th, 2011
1:14 pm

no im not knocking buford they have a awesome program but half there roster lives outside the buford city limits


March 19th, 2011
3:04 pm

Yay, let’s expand to six classifications so that the 10 schools in the state with over 3000 kids can all play for their own championship. Seriously, there are not enough schools with enormous populations (3000+) to effectively separate the schools with 2000 kids from the schools with 3500 kids.


March 19th, 2011
3:26 pm

I like what South Carolina does. They have four classes with 6 champions. Class 1 and Class 4 have an upper and lower division champion. Class 2 and 3 has 1 champion per class. Class 1 has an upper championship with 16 teams making the playoffs and a lower champion with 16 teams making the playoffs. The same is true with Class 4. In Class 2 and 3 the playoff bracket is made up of 32 teams playing for one state championship. The 2 divided classes are based on enrollment. The biggest 16 teams in Class 4 make up the upper division while the remaining schools are placed in the lower division. The same division is used with Class 1.


March 19th, 2011
3:29 pm

To clarify, the upper division isn’t the 16 largest schools in South Carolina per say. The upper division is made up of the 16 largest schools that quailfy for the playoffs.

No Transfers?

March 19th, 2011
4:58 pm

Sports has become as much of a career choice as any other field. Most people only focus on the players, but there are as many opportunities in sports as there are in any field…for a professional team you could works in or as a coach, manager, trainer, doctor, lawyer, accountant, maintenance, marketing, public relations, commentator,recruiter,scout,business development,real estate and the list goes on and on and on….families “transfer” to different school districts that are strong in math, science, technology, language, etc – so what’s the difference when families “transfer” for sports?

State Champion?

March 19th, 2011
5:03 pm

Regardless of how many classifications there are, determining a “state champion” still is not decided until there is playoff competition among all classifications….perhaps a system whereby the final 4 or final 2 from each classification is then put into a playoff bracket to determine the ultimate “state champion”.


March 19th, 2011
5:08 pm

If anything needs tweaking it’s the playoff system – GA predetermines the placement of the 4 teams from each region – that makes no sense at all – in a lot of cases, the “championship” game is played in an earlier round when the best two teams meet (that’s why you have so many lopped sided scores in the semi-finals and Finals)…Let’s develop a true playoff system for GA – make it a high school project – I am sure there are some high school fans out there who would come up with a great system with a little incentive.

Hit A Single

March 19th, 2011
5:46 pm

It is not just the private schools. There are some public schools that have the same advantages. Calhoun, Buford and Cartersville just to name a few. We need to stay with what we have and make a sit out rule if you transfer for any reason other than parents changing jobs. Just an example! Private schools, you must enter in the nineth grade to be eligible at any time. If you enter after nineth grade you must sit out a year.

old school

March 20th, 2011
12:32 am

It would be great to see in basketball an all classification playoff system. Perhaps a tournament of champions of the champs of each classification. Or take the final fours of each classification and put them in a final playoff tourney. It could even be done in other sports such as baseball. I do not think it would work in football especially with Class A or AA going up against ClassAAAA or ClassAAAAA. Also, something does need to be done about private school and open school systems which have an unfair competitive edge because of their abilitiy to recruit. Either make those schools play up a classification or do as Scot Waldrop suggests and make them play up to the classification of the school from which they recruit a player. Even Hit A Single’s recommendation that a player who transfers must sit out a season before playing for the new school is worth considering.

GHSA suggestion

March 20th, 2011
11:15 am

Seems to be an awful lot of private school and city school envy and animus amongst some of you posters. I would suggest your bias is blinding the facts. Schools such as Calhoun, Buford, Gainesville, Carrollton, Bremen (Mr Murphy’s hometown) accept out of district students who pay tuition. You may want to visit those system’s websites where tuition charges are posted. Private schools, like the city schools, are often chosen due to their superior academic standards, smaller classrooms, better teachers, and less polarizing political atmosphere. Parents primary concern is quality of education. Your insinuations that city and private schools “recruit” athletes is no more of a problem than the accusations that some county schools do the same or that Parkview used Dekalb students, and Stephenson recruits from Gwinnett or other areas of Dekalb. Losers always search for excuses.

GHSA should spend time examining what Texas is doing. GHSA is overrun with politicial maneuvers all intended to protect ones school, sport or district rather rather than what’s best for the student athlete. The playoffs in football, the basketball tournament, Spring golf with an 18 hole championship vs Fall and 36 holes like all our neighbors are but three examples. GHSA is run by a group of retired football coaches who are stuck in the past, protecting football and their buddies to the detriment of other sports.


March 20th, 2011
11:34 am

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