GHSA votes to separate Class A public, private schools for playoffs and championships

By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC

MACON — The landscape of high school athletics in Georgia took an unprecedented turn on Tuesday when the executive committee of the Georgia High School Association voted overwhelmingly to hold separate public and private school playoffs and championships in all Class A sports, beginning this fall.

The resolution, which was introduced by Charlton County athletic director Jesse Crews, passed by a vote of 37-12, with one abstention. The result will be two, 16-team tournaments – one for public schools and one for private schools — that should keep more than 30 of Georgia’s smaller high schools from leaving the GHSA and forming their own sports league. Representatives from those schools believed there has been a competitive imbalance between public and private schools at the Class A level because of private schools’ ability to accept any student without geographic restriction.

The GHSA’s recently approved region assignments will remain in place because they had been approved prior to Tuesday’s vote, which means public and private schools will continue to compete against each other during the regular season.

GHSA officials said they will meet with various members in upcoming months to best figure out how to seed the 16-team brackets. Ralph Swearngin, executive director of the GHSA, said the process will be developed by the schools that are directly impacted by the vote, with a March timeline. It is unclear whether the public and private Class A champions will play a plus-one game when the five other classifications play for titles at the Georgia Dome in December.

“I think we have enough good minds [within the GHSA] to figure it out,” Swearngin said.

Tuesday’s vote apparently ends the movement to create the Georgia Public Schools Association. That group, which was attracting interest from more than 40 small, mostly rural, schools, held its last meeting on Monday. More than 83 representatives in the room were asked to cast ballots by Jan. 24 on what their schools planned to do in response to whatever the GHSA voted to do on Tuesday. The choices were commit to pull out of the GHSA and join the GPSA, stay in the GHSA or remain undecided.

Wilcox County principal Chad Davis, a leader in the movement, was prepared to vote for seceding from the GHSA. He seemed relieved that his school will not have to.

“I don’t think that there is the need for [the GPSA] now,” Davis said. “That’s my personal opinion, but we’re going to check with other schools that were involved in the process in the next few weeks.

“I’m very surprised by the [GHSA] vote,” he said. “I didn’t think they would do anything.”

Judging by the three-to-one margin of the vote and pleas from several executive committee members to preserve the current membership makeup of the GHSA, it appears as if the GPSA movement had a significant impact.

“I don’t think of this as a victory,” Davis said. “I’m just pleased.”

“[The vote] was a little stronger than I thought it would be,” Swearngin said. “I think there are a variety of reasons why people voted how they did. I think the pleas for unity being in the best interest of everyone was a factor.”

One such vote came from Albert “Pat” Blenke, a Georgia Department of Education Administrator who sits on the GHSA executive committee. During the meeting, he said: “This is one of the biggest decisions we have to make as an organization. Eventually, the state legislators are going to get tired of hearing the complaints from their constituents, and they will do something. And as sure as I’m standing here, whatever they do will not be beneficial to the schools.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Blenke said.

But after the vote he added, “Every decision you make is going to have unintended consequences.”

Others expressed concern over the vote, as well.

“Our biggest thing is we feel the GHSA is one of the top four high school associations in the nation, and I think we just made ourselves weaker. The best should play the best,” said Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy athletic director Scott Queen, who voted no. “We want to compete against the Lincoln County’s and the Clinch County’s, even though we haven’t beaten them yet. I just think this is going to be very hard to pull off.”

Buford athletic director Dexter Wood cast a “no” vote as well, which was aimed at the process, more than the resolution.

“My chief point of contention is that as an executive committee member we’re seeing this [proposal] for the first time and we’re being asked to make such a huge decision,” Wood said. “I would like to have had more time.”

Wood is also concerned that the next “target” will be single-city school districts with one high school, similar to Buford and Calhoun. Those schools have begun to come under fire for their ability to attract county students and allow them to enroll for a minimal amount of tuition – usually around $200 per month.

“It seems to be that the time has come where we are trying to level the playing field everywhere, and that’s such a relative matter,” Wood said. “There are definite differences between private schools and a city high school.”

AJC staff writer Michael Carvell contributed to this story.

417 comments Add your comment

Concrete Pete

January 10th, 2012
1:12 pm

If this is the beginning of a trend throughout all classifications, will Buford be subject to private school rules?

Out of town

January 10th, 2012
1:13 pm

Go back to 5 classes and this is a good idea. Terrible with 6.

Dollar Bill

January 10th, 2012
1:16 pm

Ditto!! And any other City school as well. You can live in Alabama and play for Buford.

hsbbfan

January 10th, 2012
1:18 pm

I guess this system is fair but now should class A be divided? For example Class A(public) champs and class A(private) champs for each sport. Based on the recent(last 25years) class alignments…That will take some time to get use to.

Tdawg

January 10th, 2012
1:21 pm

Crap when it comes to recruiting, the priviate schools don’t have jack on the city schools. What about the city schools. Heck Bufords entire starting line up was made up mostly of transfers.

Just Be Fair

January 10th, 2012
1:27 pm

Now will all the Private schools in class A opt to move up to AA classification?

Dollar Bill

January 10th, 2012
1:35 pm

Just be fair: Let them. Then they will have to compete with the likes of Wesleyan and Lovett and Westminster down the road. Marist is the one of the few private schools out there that opts to play up.. I THINK they qualify as AA but play up to AAAA.

Who does this really target? Private schools in South Georgia? This has to be a reactionary change on GHSA’s part.

yellowjacket

January 10th, 2012
1:40 pm

Should have just went with a multiplier. The next change will be the result of county schools complaining about city schools, city schools complaining about charter schools, and so on. Dividing the two was a bad idea but this is Georgia. I think the GISA will gain from this. Hopefully if not already they will be allowed to play both public and private schools from other states. If I was a coach or headmaster at a GISA school I would recruit and try to put my school on a national level. It is very much possible. Look at the catholic leagues in New Jersey, Oak Hill Academy, and Findlay Prep. The goal for GISA the next 5 years is to have the best competition in the Southeast.

Just Be Fair

January 10th, 2012
1:41 pm

Yea Dollar Bill that is really fair to the AA schools that are barely bigger than your Charltons and Lincolns. They haven’t solved one thing they just moved a problem. Class don’t want what is fair they just want the whole pie themselves. I know there is a problem but this just moved it. It didn’t solve what is fair for all.

WTF

January 10th, 2012
1:41 pm

What a crock…..guess no one has ever heard of how Wilkinson County recruits basketball players. Jeter the Cheater and his family are permeated throughout their school district at all the highest paid positions…..

JD

January 10th, 2012
1:41 pm

They should consider puting city schools in the same boat as private schools, they recruit a lot of their kids as well.

Dap01

January 10th, 2012
1:41 pm

It’s about time.

Just Be Fair

January 10th, 2012
1:42 pm

I meant Class A in my third sentence.

Just Be Fair

January 10th, 2012
1:43 pm

JD where is your evidence against city schools? Don’t sterotype all city schools.

Bobo is Not the Problem

January 10th, 2012
1:44 pm

Too funny. Didn’t four private Christian schools compete in the semifinals this year? Not a public school to be found?

Guess the public schools (and my kids go to one in AAAA) couldn’t take the embarrassment.

Too funny.

And bad move by GHSA.

Dap01

January 10th, 2012
1:46 pm

It don’t matter how many “leagues” are created. Every team in every league should ALWAYS have the same rules. At least they acknowledged a problem.

Tommy

January 10th, 2012
1:47 pm

Now all private schools should join the GHSA.

JD

January 10th, 2012
1:47 pm

@Just Be Fair

AA is the main one that I’m refering to, the same two teams every year and they both do it the same way, although, Buford does it more.

Bruce Kelnhofer

January 10th, 2012
1:58 pm

We did this down here in Florida for the first time this year. The “rural schools’ had theri state championship and it seemed to go pretty well. It will never be fair, but who cares. Its about the kids starting in the summer and working hard for a state championship in December. My daughter goes to a Christian school in Jacksonville, and I like the classifications that we have. I am the golf coach at the school. I wish we had more classifications for golf. We have two and it makes it pretty hard to compete.

D-Dubs

January 10th, 2012
2:02 pm

Is this through all Class A sports, or just football? If it’s going to be done, it needs to be done across the board for all sports.

Also, why stop at Class A? Why not all private schools?

Sheriff Taylor

January 10th, 2012
2:02 pm

What’s to keep the private schools as members of GHSA now that the A schools are exiled to their own private league? If they form their own association or only play other private schools like they do in NC, TN, TX, etc. eligibility rules will be out the window w/o GHSA governance and “recruiting” will become rampant. At least, it has the potential to become even more of a wild west free-for-all than it is now, where schools at least have to pretend some of the time not to recruit and pay lip service to GHSA rules. It won’t take long for private schools to hire scouts & recruiting coordinators to buy up the best athletes to an even larger degree than they do already.
Small public schools may see this a good move until their best players start getting bought from under their noses more frequently. Not sure this is a great move for Georgia High School sports.There are now 7 (?!) classifications in GHSA if this stands, APublic, APrivate, & AA – AAAAAA?

Panther Pride

January 10th, 2012
2:02 pm

It’s essentially this:

For the private schools to play in GHSA, they have to play. Public schools don’t have to pay. Simple economics, it is better for the GHSA to give an advantage to private schools so they can keep this money flowing. That has a lot to do with it, because all the public schools feel slighted because they watch these games.

Bobo is not the answer: If you think there’s no difference between a county school in South Georgia with 10,000 citizens in the county and a school in metro Atlanta with 10 times that number in proximity of the school, you’re in a state of denial.

Panther Pride

January 10th, 2012
2:04 pm

Private schools have to pay to play in GHSA. typo.

Knights123

January 10th, 2012
2:07 pm

So how does this change playoff qualifying???

Walmartdawg

January 10th, 2012
2:11 pm

Should have left it the way it was and let the small public shools leave. They would have come back eventually.

Lady Cat

January 10th, 2012
2:11 pm

I think what the biggest disadvantage and complaint was that the schools were NOT equal. A small public school does not have the money to “recruit” any players like the private schools do. Private school students already have to pay to go to that school so money is not an issue for them. And it is NOT FAIR TO THE KIDS that are playing and practicing when the same rules dont apply to ALL! It will never be completely fair to all. There will always be complainers!

billcanoe

January 10th, 2012
2:12 pm

Good move – it’s about time.

Rob

January 10th, 2012
2:13 pm

I think it is a foolish decision and will cost schools more. It will also become a water down brand of football. It doesn’t solve the problem of recruiting because that is happening at the public schools too. The GHSA can’t contol the nature of the beast it sounds like.

DawginLex

January 10th, 2012
2:14 pm

Bunch of freaking public school crybabies got their way.

What a joke

Why don’t you really do something gutsy and do the following:

1.) Put prayer back in school
2.) Actually require kids to attend class
3.) Boot out the jerkoffs, houligans and trouble makers and let the kids who wat to actually learn, learn.

Public schools get what they have created and now want a new set of rules to win sporting events because they can’t manage their own schools.

WAH! WAH! WAH!

Lame

January 10th, 2012
2:16 pm

CrαZy

January 10th, 2012
2:16 pm

If this is the beginning of a trend throughout all classifications, will Buford be subject to private school rules?

Why would they be they’re a public school? Why is it Buford’s fault that people want to put their kids in school there. Why is it Bufords fault that they are located in one of the largest counties in the state? Dispite what people say athletes are NOT the only kids transfering into the school… as a matter of FACT more kids transfer into the school at the Elementary school age than the at High school age so they’re not just getting athletes!!

CrαZy

January 10th, 2012
2:20 pm

Why is it school systems that do a great all around job creating a great learning enviroment by having great facilities, academics and athletics are always the ones most people complain about??

Some people live their life jealous of what others have and some people work their butt of to get what others have!!!

old man

January 10th, 2012
2:21 pm

GHSA HAS LET RECRUTING GO TO FAR MONEY TALKS

Bob

January 10th, 2012
2:21 pm

1.71 Recruiting and Undue Influence is defined as the use of influence by any person connected directly or indirectly with a GHSA school to induce a student of any age to transfer from one school to another, or to enter the ninth grade at a member school for athletic or literary competition purposes, whether or not the school presently attended by the student is a member of the GHSA.

The Problem is this rule does NOT apply to Private Schools. Thus the unfair dissadvantage.

Enough is enough

January 10th, 2012
2:25 pm

The answer to all this madness is simple. 1. ALL public schools should make up the GHSA an ALL privates make up the GISA. 2. To play sports at a GHSA school, the student athlete MUST live in the district with NO EXCEPTIONS. This would end all these problems (including Buford-like situations). Is this really that difficult?

Raider1990

January 10th, 2012
2:28 pm

@pantherpride: you are quite wrong and should read the white book. Every member school in the GHSA pays a membership fee.

Coffee High Fan

January 10th, 2012
2:28 pm

We still looking for a New Football Coach..if interested call are send resume to Coffee Co Bd on Ed. Douglas Ga.

CrαZy

January 10th, 2012
2:32 pm

2. To play sports at a GHSA school, the student athlete MUST live in the district with NO EXCEPTIONS. This would end all these problems Is this really that difficult?

Yes it is really that difficult there’s FEDERAL laws that allows parents to put their kids into schools even if they don’t live in the district. Some kind of multiplier is the only way…

Brett Blitch

January 10th, 2012
2:32 pm

Being from Clinch county, we don’t recruit. In the last thirty years, we may have had 4 students transfer to Clinch county and played sports. All four sat out the required one year, and trust me, they didn’t make that much of an impact. I hate being sperated from the other schools and would rather play and beat everyone in class A,just have the kids sit out one year regardless where they transfer from! Make common sense exceptions like a school closing. GHSA just catered to both sides, giving each what they wanted.
Clinch beat Eagles Landing and Savanah Christian last year with homegrown talent. Both are great schools, but playing against a stacked deck, meant we were the best of the best.

JWin

January 10th, 2012
2:41 pm

I say just line them up and play ball!

CrαZy

January 10th, 2012
2:43 pm

People always brag about winning with home grown talent and that’s great in the sticks, but when you live in heavily populated areas NO school wins with homegrown talent. If you move 1 mile down the road in metro ATL odds are you’re in a diferent school district. In south GA you can move accross the county and still be in the same school district. That’s just the way it is. They could always do like California and split between Metro area schools and non- metro area schools… then we can argue about what makes you a metro school or not a metro school.

Mr. Silly

January 10th, 2012
2:45 pm

Thomas, any way you could provide us with a vote breakdown?

Enough is enough

January 10th, 2012
2:48 pm

2. To play sports at a GHSA school, the student athlete MUST live in the district with NO EXCEPTIONS. This would end all these problems Is this really that difficult?

Yes it is really that difficult there’s FEDERAL laws that allows parents to put their kids into schools even if they don’t live in the district. Some kind of multiplier is the only way…

I didn’t say attend the school. To participate in athletics, they must live in the district. Anyone the school wants to allow in, so be it. This is the best way as the same Federal government makes ALL states must provide public education no matter where you live. Federal law or not, this is by far the easiest and simplest way where no cheating could take place without consequences. If privates want to play in the GHSA, make them play in the highest classification PERIOD. The problem is too many complicated rules and loopholes. Athletics are not a right, they are a privilege. Simplify the rules, and fairness will finally be done.

Guest

January 10th, 2012
2:49 pm

Any GISA schools having trouble paying travel costs for sports? This may make them think about jumping to the GHSA if that allows more options for local play.

Reality Check

January 10th, 2012
2:53 pm

The simple solution is to give everyone a Participation Trophy. Then, everyone is a winner! Until they enter the workforce where pay is equated to value and performance, people are actually terminated for not performing their jobs, and then you sign up for public assistance. Oh wait, public assistance is kind of like the Class A public school championships for people in the real world looking for a Participation Trophy. Never mind.

CrαZy

January 10th, 2012
2:55 pm

If there’s a rule that makes kids live in the district to play at that school don’t you think parents would just move to that school district or rent an apt in that district. Parents are going to put their kids in the school they want them to play or attend regardless of the rules.

I’m sure some schools may recruit, but for the most part people that put their kids into a school do it for academic reasons and that shouldn’t result in the kid not being allowed to play athletics.

GHSA went down the tubes!

January 10th, 2012
2:57 pm

Public Schools are a bunch of cry babies… they should put an asterisk next to every state championship won by a public school starting this fall. It can stand for, “Public School Champ was afraid to play a Private School!” This is worst than the BCS…

Looking behind the losses

January 10th, 2012
2:58 pm

Prince played and beat three of the biggest complainers in this fiasco: Washington-Wilkes, Charlton, and Bremen. The talent disparity between those schools was quite evident. Simply put, if not for bad coaching and/or turnovers Prince would not have been able to stay within 20 points of any of those teams. But rather than taking the blame for poor coaching and mistakes, those teams have joined a conspiracy to hurt the football programs of schools like Prince who take no Georgia GOAL money and whose parents have to pay public school taxes even though their kids don’t attend public schools. No one cared when the private schools were winning tennis, golf, basketball, baseball, volleyball, etc. championships; but now that there has been 1 year that a private school won the all-mighty football championship in Class A all hell breaks loose. A multiplier would have been a much fairer way to do this, but the GHSA caved plain and simple.

GHSA went down the tubes!

January 10th, 2012
2:59 pm

@Reality Check

Right on! That’s exactly how it is.

CrαZy

January 10th, 2012
3:03 pm

(including Buford-like situations)

What would that situation be exactly? The part where the city puts every dime they can into making the school better? Or the part where they were rated as 1 of the top public schools in the state? Or the situation where people are willing to PAY 2K so that their kids can attend? Or the situation that their athletics are dominate? What a situation they’re in at Buford… lets punish them for doing a great job with there school system!!!