Class A public-private power rankings have some coaches scratching their heads

By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC

Seminole County head football coach Alan Ingram supports “it,” even though “it” could cost him a playoff spot. Gordon Lee volleyball coach Ed Clendenen isn’t affected by it, but likes it anyway, while his faculty mate, Gordon Lee softball coach Dana Mull doesn’t like it.

Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy softball coach Doug Campbell thinks it has been poorly administered, Our Lady of Mercy head football coach Mike Earwood admitted that he just learned about a key aspect of it this week, tiny Baconton Community Charter School could win a state championship next week because of it, and Georgia High School Association Executive Director Ralph Swearngin said aspects of it could be tweaked and adjusted later next year.

“It” is the new format for determining playoff teams in Class A, in the first year of public and private schools being separated for post season competition. The GHSA executive committee voted overwhelmingly to do so earlier this year in an effort to appease public high schools located primarily in small cities and counties in South Georgia, where many of the coaches, administrators and parents believe private schools – particularly those in larger metro areas like Atlanta, Augusta, Macon and Savannah – have an unfair competitive advantage.

While coaches and advocates for both public and private schools continue to debate the merits and benefits of the split playoff format, they agree on one thing: “It is what it is.”

“The girls look at the power rankings and ask questions about it, why are we ranked here, why are they ranked there,” ECLA’s Campbell said. “But we tell them that the bottom line is, we can’t help with any of that. We can’t control that. It’s just like an umpire. You have no control over them. All you can do is play the game. The [playoff] system is what it is.”

In softball, as in football, playoff spots are determined using a power ranking system — being implemented with assistance from MaxPreps.com – where teams are rewarded for wins and for strength of schedule. The top 16 teams on each side, public and private, advance to the playoffs.

However, Campbell believes the manner in which the system was implemented in softball this season was highly flawed. Among his criticisms were that the power rankings were not updated frequently or accurately enough, the time frame and mechanism for appealing final team rankings was ignored by the GHSA, and communication overall throughout the process was nonexistent.

“After the end of all the region tournaments (Oct. 6), the rankings came out that Monday or Tuesday (Oct. 8-9). We submitted an appeal because we didn’t think our point total was correct,” said Campbell, whose team was awarded a No. 3 seed overall , as the Region 5 champions, in the field of 16 private schools. After winning its first round game last week, his Chargers will face Mt. Pisgah Christian in the first round of the eight-team state finals tournament, beginning today through Saturday in Columbus.

“But we never heard anything from the GHSA. Nothing, one way or another,” Campbell said. “We saw the final rankings and playoff brackets on (Oct. 10) and that was it.

“There were some teams that were seeded in one position when the brackets first came out, that were seeded differently on the final bracket but there was no explanation,” Campbell said. “There is no doubt in my mind that errors were made that probably caused some teams not to make it, on the public and the private side.”

The GHSA’s Swearngin said he was not aware of Campbell’s complaint and that he “heard very little” in the way of disillusionment with the system. But he admitted that determining and managing the softball power ranking – where teams can play anywhere from three to seven games in a week – was difficult.

“It was very complicated and took a lot of work, but it looks like it was done fairly accurately,” Swearngin said. “Of course, if we have schools saying that we need to communicate better, we should look at that, certainly.”

He added that the GHSA’s executive committee may take a look at making adjustments to the playoff systems later this year, after all of the seasons, including the winter and spring sports, have been completed.

In football, the new power ranking system could prove costly for Seminole County and its head coach Ingram, who had been and remains one of the most strident supporters of separating public and private schools. Under the old system, the Indians (5-2, 3-0), currently tied for first in Region 1 with Miller County (4-0, 7-0), would all but be assured of claiming one of the region’s four playoff spots. However, this week’s public school power rankings have Seminole County at No. 18 – two slots out of the playoffs and 10 slots behind Miller County at No. 8.

But Ingram said whether his team makes the post season or not, he supports the power ranking system.

“Nothing is perfect, and so it may not work out for us this season,” said Ingram, who is 64-34 in his ninth season at the school, located in the southwest Georgia city of Donaldsonville. After going 9-1 during the regular season last year and winning the school’s first region title since 1974, the Indians were destroyed in the quarterfinals, 51-7, by ELCA.

“This is better for the little public schools like ours, overall,” said Ingram, who said he would like to see a playoff field of 32 teams instead of just 16. That would mean all but four public schools would advance to the post season. “If it doesn’t work out for us this year, we’ll just have to go back to the drawing board and get better for next year.”

Our Lady of Mercy’s Earwood said he just became aware of the fact that teams are awarded one point for every one of their opponent’s wins, which bodes well for his Bobcats (4-4), currently No. 15 in the private school power rankings. The combined record of the teams that defeated Mercy – Athens Academy, Landmark Christian Academy, Holy Innocents and ELCA – is 24-6.

“This thing is so complicated, but it looks like it’s better to lose to a couple of very good teams as opposed to beating a weaker team,” Earwood said.

At Gordon Lee, a small public school located in the northwest Georgia town of Chickamauga, just south of the Tennessee border, softball coach Dana Mull’s Trojans are the two-time defending Class A champions. They went an astounding 75-1 during the stretch and defeated two private schools in the finals – Providence Christian in 2010 and Wesleyan in 2011.

Mull doesn’t like the current system and prefers the one used in Tennessee, where public schools and private schools are also divided.

“They separate all of the private schools, not just in [the smallest classification], and then they have two private school divisions, big schools and little schools,” said Mull, who has led Gordon Lee to a 29-2 record this season and the No. 1 overall seed on the public school side. “Then the public schools are divided into classifications based on their size. If you’re going to be separate, be separate.”

Clendenen, Gordon Lee’s volleyball coach, said he wishes schools were divided in his sport. Due to the lack of volleyball programs in the public schools, there is no separation. The Trojans, the only public school to advance past the first round of the state playoffs in the past five years, went 15-15 this season against private schools but were eliminated in last week’s first round by ELCA.

“If the schools should be divided in any sport, it should be ours,” Clendenen said. “It’s hard for us to compete with the facilities and extra training, but mostly the recruiting that private schools can do.”

Clendenen said he, like Mull, prefers the system Tennessee uses. He argues that dividing public and private schools, particularly at the Class A level, gives small public schools a better chance at competing for a state title. For example, Baconton Community Charter School , located 30 miles south of Albany, saw its boys cross country team finish 24th at the finals last season while the girls team placed 28th. At next week’s state finals, which will be held in Macon, the Blazer boys are the top-ranked Class A public school team and the girls are No. 4.

“You just want things to be fair for your kids,” Clendenen said. “You want your kids to have the opportunity to legitimately compete for region championships and state championships.”

41 comments Add your comment

In the know

October 24th, 2012
3:35 pm

Max Sizemore

October 24th, 2012
3:46 pm

Thomas, you are doing an excellent job. I always look forward to your coverage.

S. Thomas Coleman

October 24th, 2012
4:06 pm

@Max: Thank you, sir!

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

John

October 24th, 2012
4:44 pm

Great article. I am amused by the Gordon Lee comments. If they truly got total public private separation, there are only two other small public schools in remote distance of Gordon Lee–Trion, which is close by, and Mt. Zion, located around 100 miles south of Chickamauga. Gordon Lee would have to travel 150 plus miles for most of their games. On the private school side, schools like Pacelli and Brookstone in Columbus would be in the same predicament. I like the old system better where public and private schools competed for a true state title instead of the watered own Class A championships schools like Wilcox County and Turner County forced on us but this is the next best thing.

S. Thomas Coleman

October 24th, 2012
5:06 pm

@John: Thanks for reading and posting!

Coach Clendenen discussed the delima you mentioned, which is why he would like to have the Tennessee format implemented here. That would push him into a region like 7AA, with Calhoun, Model, Dade, etc., though I don’t think his football coach would be all that happy with lining up against Calhoun every year!

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

Hubert Green

October 24th, 2012
6:11 pm

You mean the GHSA is not on top of things? I like their ruling against Milton; everybody leligible; everybody made a bonafide move; fire the coach; punish the team. Good logic there.

tom jones

October 24th, 2012
7:42 pm

Does anyone believe that somehow a coaches poll and AP poll should be used in determining the overall rankings. I understand there could be some complications, but the rankings would be much more realistic. I support the public private split, but being in region 4a. Brookstone only plays public schools which often get overlooked. this year we scheduled mt. paran and weslyean, but that only goes so far. Often we do get overlooked as every other team does in our region. So this is a very complicated issue. Hopefully more people will look into us after our win at Marion this weekend.

tom jones

October 24th, 2012
7:52 pm

and we are very lucky to have great coverage on class A everyday. keep it up

Recruit hell..

October 24th, 2012
7:53 pm

Why don’t they just put all teams in the playoffs along with giving everybody a participation trophy?

R. Klesko

October 24th, 2012
8:56 pm

What a whiny gutless tool Ed Clendenen seems to be.

“You just want things to be fair for your kids,” Clendenen said. “You want your kids to have the opportunity to legitimately compete for region championships and state championships.”

How about doing your job and coaching up your kids? You do not want things to be fair. You want things to be easy. What lesson are you teaching your players? In the real world when they have to compete against people who may be taller or richer or smarter, will you tell them that someone should just take away their competition for a job, too? You are like a poker player that does not want to play his hand until you see that anyone else with a good hand is forced out of the game.

S. Thomas Coleman

October 24th, 2012
10:27 pm

@tom: The polls don’t play any role in the Power Rankings. Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

– You get 10 points for a win. Then divide that by the number of games you’ve played and multiply by 10.

– You get 2 points for every classification higher an opponent is than you. So, play a AA team and you get 2 points; play a AAA team, get 4 points and so on. If you win the game, you get 10 points plus the points for the higher classification. Then divide that by the number of games you’ve played and multiply by 10.

– You get one point for every win you opponent has, after you have played them. Divide that by the number of games the opponent has played and multiply by 10.

Add those numbers up and you get your Power Ranking.

For a more detailed explanation, complete with graphs and tables, go to the GHSA website.

Thanks for reading and posting!

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

S. Thomas Coleman

October 24th, 2012
10:27 pm

@tom: Thanks!

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

S. Thomas Coleman

October 24th, 2012
10:30 pm

@Recruit: Actually, Coach Ingram at Seminole County wants to do just that. He would like to see everyone in the playoffs, but no participation trophy (unless everyone gets one at the banquet!).

Thanks for reading and posting!

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

S. Thomas Coleman

October 24th, 2012
10:34 pm

@R. Klesko: Don’t be so hard on Coach Clendenen. I can see his point, which is one that is made by many public school coaches. By their very nature, private schools can and must recruit students to remain viable. Public schools cannot recruit students.

Though there are many nuances involved, that’s the bottom line and so you have to concede that point to the public school coaches.

Thanks for reading and posting!

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

MCMBAA

October 24th, 2012
11:42 pm

STC, at the risk of opening up the same tired arguments and subjecting us to more ‘whine’ than Napa Valley produces annually, I take exception with the use of the term “recruiting” as you have stated above. I certainly can’t speak for every program in the state or confirm the practices that go on behind the scenes at every school. However, I think it would be much more accurate to say that private schools can and do accept transfer students that petition to attend their institution, provided they have the grades and finances to do so.

To say that they “recruit” implies that the private schools actively go to competing campuses, scout talent, pull them to the side, and offer them compensation or awards to attend their school and play for them. I’m not saying that never happens, on BOTH sides of the private/public aisle, just saying that using the term “recruiting” is a bit misleading and inflammatory and painting with an incredibly broad brush.

That said, and duly noting that you can and should take great pride in the fact that you are one of the most neutral sportwriters in the game, I know you mean to throw no barbs. I just think with a topic this hot, the last thing we need to do is throw more gas on it.

Thanks for all the excellent commentary!

c.

October 25th, 2012
3:29 am

R.Klesko – pretty harsh criticism of a man based on one quote. Do you know him? I do and your comment is way off base. Sounds like you advocate just eliminating classifications altogether and throwing all high schools into one big pile and let them compete that way. I mean, after all – that would be a “real world” solution, right?

Jacketaxe

October 25th, 2012
7:13 am

Separate them.

Rules

October 25th, 2012
7:34 am

Glad to see the changes the GHSA made in the county/private sports playoffs.

Now they need to either form a “city” division or lump the city schools, which can recruit county players at will, into the private school playoffs.

Regular season
County, City, Privates play each other

State playoffs
County plays County
Privates play Privates
City play City

Seperate but equal

October 25th, 2012
7:39 am

I agree with the GHSA. Public schools play public schools, Private schools play private schools. And I too would like to see City schools play other City schools when the play offs begin.

EXAMPLE
There is no reason why a star player from Cass should be allowed to transfer to Cartersville and compete against Cass the following year. Or visa versa.

S. Thomas Coleman

October 25th, 2012
8:34 am

@MCMBAA: Thanks for the comments, and for reading and posting!

I say private schools “recruit” students because they do. They have to because they don’t have an enforced attendance zone like a public school. But all that means is that they have to do information fairs and send out mailers to prospective parents. That’s it.

I don’t mean for the word to have the same meaning as say Georgia and Mark Richt recruiting a player — even though, as you point out, everyone knows that does go on to some degree in high school at both public and private schools.

Now, all that said, my personal opinion on the whole “recruiting” thing is this: I believe that in the vast majority of cases, a parent initiates the conversation, contacts the school/coach, talks about his/her child’s skills and asks the coach if he/she would be interested in having the child in their program.

And here is the moment of truth for the coach. In many cases, he/she will ask to see some film of the child, go attend one of the child’s workouts, or even have the child come participate in a “voluntary” workout with the team. If it looks like the child can help that coach’s program, the next step is getting him/her into the school — placement tests/essays/interviews/financial aid, etc., if it’s a private school, finding a in-zone residence if it is a public school.

So that is where the ultimate question must be asked: Was that child recruited? Some would say yes, he/she was recruited, others would say, no, the parent made the first contact.

It’s a very sticky issue that I doubt will ever go away.

Thanks again!

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

Lets forget the season

October 25th, 2012
8:37 am

Lets do away with the season, everyone in the playoffs. Private vs private, public vs public, city vs city,
county vs county. Then in the second half of the old season, alphabetically or by the color of their unis. Then the big schools vs the small schools, then mix ‘me up and start over…..yeesh!
This is what happens to the last bastion of amateur sports, high schools, when the ‘participation trophy’ generation become the coaches.
Just give everyone a championship trophy and forget the season

S. Thomas Coleman

October 25th, 2012
8:41 am

@Rules: There are not enough “city” systems to be able to have a viable post season tournament.

I believe you are refering to places like Buford and Calhoun, possibly Marietta. In order for your system to be implemented, you would have to include Atlanta Public Schools and then the handful of city-county systems in the state like Macon-Bibb, Athens-Clarke County, and Savannah-Chatham into that mix as well. There are just too many moving parts, in my opinion, for that to work.

Interesting concept though. Thanks for reading and posting!

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

S. Thomas Coleman

October 25th, 2012
8:43 am

@Separate but equal: If the kid from Cass moves with his family to Cartersville, or moves in with a legal guardian in Cartersville, he/she should be eligible to play immediately. Those are the rules and I think they are appropriate.

Thanks for reading and posting!

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

S. Thomas Coleman

October 25th, 2012
8:47 am

@Let’s forget the season: I think you’re being a bit too hard on the folks who advocate for separation. I’m not a fan of it personally, but I get their point. I wish, personally, that there was no separation. But after talking with so many coaches and parents in Small Town, Georgia, the vast majority of them are staunch advocates of separation. So I don’t think we’ll go back to the old system in Class A anytime soon. I think the larger classifications will stay as is.

Thanks for reading and posting!

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

Jefferson

October 25th, 2012
9:23 am

If Cass had a better program the kid would stay there. Buford advantage stems more from dense population withing comuting distance, Calhoun has a much smaller population pool to pull from, but yes they have players that live outside the city limits, but not as many as some would think. Look at the D1s the schools get into college, the size of the linemen and the speed of the skill players, that will tell much. Winning does help winning. Charter schools are private schools, don’t be fooled, just public funded.

The Truth

October 25th, 2012
9:50 am

The GHSA screws up everything they touch. Nothing new there.
Their main concern is m o n e y !! Not yours or schools, theirs.

Raider1990

October 25th, 2012
10:13 am

STC wrote: “And here is the moment of truth for the coach. In many cases, he/she will ask to see some film of the child, go attend one of the child’s workouts, or even have the child come participate in a “voluntary” workout with the team. If it looks like the child can help that coach’s program, the next step is getting him/her into the school — placement tests/essays/interviews/financial aid, etc., if it’s a private school, finding a in-zone residence if it is a public school.”

All of those things you wrote are deemed violations by the ghsa no matter if the coach is public or private. They are exactly the things Boyd got fired for at Milton.

Raider1990

October 25th, 2012
10:15 am

Just bring back the Tom Murphy multiplier!

Pirate Man

October 25th, 2012
11:18 am

Well dang, you mean to tell me that Alan Ingram is not whining about something.

david

October 25th, 2012
12:04 pm

Here we go again with the private schools recruit whining. Interesting fact, the AJC has reported twice this year that 2 public schools recruited, Shiloh and Milton, and a 3rd is accused, Buford. Maybe the private school supporters should pay closer attention to their public counterparts.

S. Thomas Coleman

October 25th, 2012
12:04 pm

@Raider 1990: In my own personal opinion, I don’t think those things that I wrote should be violations. I go into more detail about my thoughts on transfering and recruiting in today’s installment of the Class A Blog. Come join the conversation if you like,

Thanks for reading and posting!

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

S. Thomas Coleman

October 25th, 2012
12:08 pm

@Pirate Man: Nope, Coach Ingram said he is prepared to live with whatever happens this year with the new system because he thinks it is what is best for schools like his overall, particularly in some of the “non-revenue” sports. He’s a good guy. I always enjoy speaking with him.

And congrats to his son doing an awesome job over at Class AAAAA Riverwood, with his quarterback Grant Drakeford. Go “Grant-Grant”!

Thanks for reading and posting, Pirate Man.

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

rammerjammer14

October 25th, 2012
2:45 pm

Just a couple of thoughts…
At the end of this season we will have 2 state champions in single A and no one will really know for sure who the best team is in single A. I have seen ELCA play and if there is a better team in single A than them I would love to see them play.
I hate to tell people but ELCA is not going to slow down, they have a program with coaches, parents, and kids who have “bought in”. They have youth teams for kindergarden, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th,5th, and middle school, thats how you build a program. And a great school where kids learn so it’s an easy decision to send your kids there(yes, I have 2 in elementary school).
Ah the recruiting issue. For public schools it’s real easy. If they don’t live or move into your district they are not eligible. No you can’t tell them where to rent an apartment, no you can’t have a tryout. All are against GHSA rules. I think winning with players who you know shouldn’t be in your program is a disgrace to what high school sports is suppost to be about. To put it in simple terms that would be called cheating.

jad

October 25th, 2012
10:47 pm

As to the public school playoffs, why not have 2 teams from each of the 8 regions advance. The regions with crossover games would have the winner and runnner up of the crossover advance to the playoffs. In the past only the top 2 teams advanced in each region.

BehindEnemyLines

October 25th, 2012
10:51 pm

Sounds like the whiner at Gordon Lee should hang out with the biggest crybaby of them all over in Lincoln County. But the state would be better off if cowards like them were hanging out somewhere else, both are disgraces to their profession as far as I’m concerned. When they’re willing to forego the tax dollars that private school parents are forced to throw down the increasingly dry hole of public education, then they’ve got a leg to stand on. Until then, they should at least muster enough character to compete with teams — most of whom have fewer student athletes to choose from in spite of the overblown talk about recruiting — that are not only paying their own way but part of crybabies as well.

S. Thomas Coleman

October 25th, 2012
11:15 pm

@jad: No system is perfect, but your idea moves us further from having the best 16 teams in the post season field. A weak region would get as many teams in (2) as a much stronger one. You could have a third or fourth place team in one region that would have won another region stay home. The Power Ranking system is the better way to go.

Thanks for reading and posting.

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

S. Thomas Coleman

October 25th, 2012
11:20 pm

@Behind: Don’t be so hard on Coach Clendenen and Coach Campbell. They do have legitimate concerns. Gordon Lee’s volleyball team is the best Class A public school program in the state and the success at Lincoln County speaks for itself.

Thanks for reading and posting.

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

JLW

October 26th, 2012
12:29 pm

For those of you calling Ed Clendenen a whiner, you clearly do not know the man, a man that has given over 25 years to teaching and coaching young people. He does not whine. Ever. One of the best, toughest coaches in the state. Ed Clendenen wanted Gordon Lee to play UP, a fact not reported in this piece, he wanted GL to play in AA or even AAA because of travel, especially in basketball. His volleyball team is one of the best public school programs in A or AA. To call a man names like “gutless” is absurd.

G.

October 26th, 2012
1:46 pm

Hey Klesko. Go get you a team and coach them up. .. then roll into chickamauga and we’ll see who leaves whining there big man. You won’t find another coach in this STATE that prepares kids for the real world better.

S. Thomas Coleman

October 26th, 2012
2:15 pm

@JLW: I refer to Coach Clendenen’s wish to play up in the fifth post on this blog. We discussed his travel situation at length, but I didn’t have room to put it in the story.

And you’re also correct about calling him gutless. That was my first time speaking with him and I found him to be credible, knowledgeable and passionate about his kids/students. I wish him and his program nothing but success up in “Chick-Town” (I hear that’s what the kids call it!).

Thanks for reading and posting!

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

S. Thomas Coleman

October 26th, 2012
2:16 pm

@G: Way to stick up for your guy, G! Good stuff!

Thanks for reading and posting!

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com