Camden County wins $20,000 coin flip vs. Norcross

By David Purdum / For the AJC
Camden County won a $20,000 coin flip, when Norcross athletic director Kirk Barton incorrectly chose tails Saturday at a remote country store in Soperton.
The result has Norcross headed five hours south to Kingsland this week for a AAAAAA quarterfinal playoff game at Camden County.
The Georgia High School Association has been using a coin flip to decide home field in playoff games between teams with the same seeding for more than a decade. Both Norcross and Camden County are 1-seeds after winning region championships.
According to Georgia Football Historians Association, Camden coach Jeff Herron has taken his team on 12 trips to the Georgia Dome during his 12-year career. He knows how much a 300-mile, overnight trip costs.
“It is an extremely expensive thing, when you have to travel five or six hours like we do or like Norcross will have to this time. It’s a heavy financial burden on a school,” said Herron. “When we travel to Atlanta, we stay at a very cheap place and eat probably four meals total. But we’re still probably going to spend $20-to-$25,000 just on buses, food and lodging.”
Camden County athletic director Gary Blount said Herron’s estimate may even be a little low.
“It’s probably in the $24-to-$28,000 range,” said Blount, who met Barton for the coin flip in the parking lot of the country store off an exit on I-16. “We don’t let Coach Herron go anymore. He was like 1-8 for his career. He’s a better football coach than coin flipper.”
Maloof said the face-to-face coin flip is silly and was happy to allow Barton to make the call for Norcross. He did not offer his athletic director any advice on whether to take heads or tails.
“I didn’t give Coach Barton any instructions,” Maloof said with a laugh. “I told people after the [second-round win over South Gwinnett] game to go over there and rub on him for good luck. It didn’t work.”
In Barton’s defense, he was playing hurt and was in the hospital early this week after undergoing a heart stent procedure.  Maloof said Monday that Barton was doing well.
It’s the second trip to South Georgia for Norcross this season. The Blue Devils traveled to Moultrie for a preseason scrimmage against Colquitt in August.
This week, Maloof plans to leave early Thursday afternoon and have an evening walk-through in Kingsland. He will try to keep his team in its normal football routine Friday, leading up the game.
The GHSA began using coin flips to decide the home field in the early 2000s, said executive director Ralph Swearngin. The GHSA had previously predetermined home teams by using a rotating bracket with the top team in a matchup getting the home field one year and the bottom team the next.
Coaches didn’t like that, and coin flips were instituted as the deciding factor.
Swearngin is not aware of any movement to eliminate the coin flip from the equation, but says ideas have been floated around about how to limit the travel required. Video conference technology like Skype is one option. Coaches are now using online technology to swap video as well, so there really is little need for a face-to-face meeting.
“It was actually suggested that I do it up here in the office, but, with all the conspiracy theorists out there, I thought better of it,” said Swearngin. “What happens with coaches in every sport, they like or dislike a rule based on the last time the rule came into play for or against them. As long as they haven’t had a bad recent experience with a rule, they’re not in the mood to change anything.”
So for now, high school teams will have their playoff fates decided by a flip of the coin, with thousands of dollars on the line in some cases.
“I don’t know that I have a better solution, but I think there’s probably one out there,” said Herron. “There’s so much riding on it, and it does almost feel incredible that we would let the flip of a coin decide that.”

By David Purdum / For the AJC

Camden County won a $20,000 coin flip, when Norcross athletic director Kirk Barton incorrectly chose tails Saturday at a remote country store in Soperton.

The result has Norcross headed five hours south to Kingsland this week for a AAAAAA quarterfinal playoff game at Camden County.

The Georgia High School Association has been using a coin flip to decide home field in playoff games between teams with the same seeding for more than a decade. Both Norcross and Camden County are 1-seeds after winning region championships.

Pre-game coin flips like this one are not nearly as valuable as the ones held in remote country store parking lots. Photo: Josh D. Weiss / Special

Pre-game coin flips like this one are not nearly as valuable as the ones held in remote country store parking lots. Photo: Josh D. Weiss / Special

According to Georgia Football Historians Association, Camden coach Jeff Herron has taken his team on 12 trips to the Georgia Dome during his 12-year career. He knows how much a 300-mile, overnight trip costs.

“It is an extremely expensive thing, when you have to travel five or six hours like we do or like Norcross will have to this time. It’s a heavy financial burden on a school,” said Herron. “When we travel to Atlanta, we stay at a very cheap place and eat probably four meals total. But we’re still probably going to spend $20-to-$25,000 just on buses, food and lodging.”

Camden County athletic director Gary Blount said Herron’s estimate may even be a little low.

“It’s probably in the $24-to-$28,000 range,” said Blount, who met Barton for the coin flip in the parking lot of the country store off an exit on I-16. “We don’t let Coach Herron go anymore. He was like 1-8 for his career. He’s a better football coach than coin flipper.”

Norcross coach Keith Maloof said the face-to-face coin flip is silly and was happy to allow Barton to make the call for Norcross. He did not offer his athletic director any advice on whether to take heads or tails.

“I didn’t give Coach Barton any instructions,” Maloof said with a laugh. “I told people after the [second-round win over South Gwinnett] game to go over there and rub on him for good luck. It didn’t work.”

In Barton’s defense, he was playing hurt and was in the hospital early this week after undergoing a heart stent procedure. Maloof said Monday that Barton was doing well.

It’s the second trip to South Georgia for Norcross this season. The Blue Devils traveled to Moultrie for a preseason scrimmage against Colquitt in August.

This week, Maloof plans to leave early Thursday afternoon and have an evening walk-through in Kingsland. He will try to keep his team in its normal football routine Friday, leading up the game.

The GHSA began using coin flips to decide the home field in the early 2000s, said executive director Ralph Swearngin. The GHSA had previously predetermined home teams by using a rotating bracket with the top team in a matchup getting the home field one year and the bottom team the next.

Coaches didn’t like that, and coin flips were instituted as the deciding factor.

Swearngin is not aware of any movement to eliminate the coin flip from the equation, but says ideas have been floated around about how to limit the travel required. Video conference technology like Skype is one option. Coaches are now using online technology to swap video as well, so there really is little need for a face-to-face meeting.

“It was actually suggested that I do it up here in the office, but, with all the conspiracy theorists out there, I thought better of it,” said Swearngin. “What happens with coaches in every sport, they like or dislike a rule based on the last time the rule came into play for or against them. As long as they haven’t had a bad recent experience with a rule, they’re not in the mood to change anything.”

So for now, high school teams will have their playoff fates decided by a flip of the coin, with thousands of dollars on the line in some cases.

“I don’t know that I have a better solution, but I think there’s probably one out there,” said Herron. “There’s so much riding on it, and it does almost feel incredible that we would let the flip of a coin decide that.”

96 comments Add your comment

Devillover

November 28th, 2012
10:18 am

At best this is an outdated way of selecting home field especially when only one team is undefeated.

Why not use their season record to earn home field advantage like the NFL.

Also, at this stage of the tournament why not play at a neutral field. It s my understanding that some states do.

THE TRUE HURT

November 28th, 2012
10:32 am

This sound like GOP 2012 election, out dated southern thinking. MOVE FORWARD GHSA.

MIKE IN MCDONOUGH

November 28th, 2012
10:40 am

Let’s see. Maybe let the team with the highest GPA have the home field advantage. After all, isn’t this part of an educational experience?

aaron ashmore

November 28th, 2012
10:44 am

Great Article! Interesting read. I would like to see a breakdown of the coin tosses over the years showing which team at teh longest distance to travel etc. I read about this in the Book Friday Night Lights with the only difference being who would ADVANCE in the playoff and who would go home. Again, great article.

aaron ashmore

November 28th, 2012
10:45 am

Should read “which team had the longest….”

Idea from Buckeye Land

November 28th, 2012
10:52 am

@David Purdum does Norcross get any money to help in the travel cost since it is so expensive ? I had always heard that they (the state) does pay for travel,refs,police and other costs during the playoffs. The other side of that is to play at the nuetral sites like they do in Ohio after the 1st round. At least the overnight stay would be eliminated. I think Georgia does allow more teams in the playoffs I guess to take in a bigger slice of the pie.

Idea from Buckeye Land

November 28th, 2012
10:54 am

The cost of tickets for the high school playoffs is way too high double what the season is !

David Purdum

November 28th, 2012
11:10 am

@MikeInMcDonough: I actually asked GHSA and Coach Herron about that. It would be very difficult to quantify and prove, they said, but I think it’s worth looking at. I always thought the BCS should have figured the GPA into the equation, even if just a tiny, tiny percentage. Nothing should be decided by a coin flip, IMO. NFL Draft order, home field … nothing. Better ways to reward teams for different forms of performance.

David Purdum

November 28th, 2012
11:13 am

@IdeafromBuckeyeLand: Good question. I’ll ask about Norcross getting any help with expenses. I like the neutral field idea as well. Eliminate the overnight stay, and you’ll cut the cost significantly. Good post. Appreciate you reading.

Colquitt Supporter

November 28th, 2012
11:15 am

I thought the visiting team got a higher share of the gate to help offset their travel expenses. 6000 fans at $12 equals 72,000. Not sure what % goes to each school, officials, GHSA, etc. but anything helps. Does anyone know the breakdown?

57Cat

November 28th, 2012
11:17 am

During the regular season, the travelling team’s expenses are paid first out of the gate receipts, then the remainder is split between the two schools. I wonder how it works during the playoffs. Obviously, the GHSA will get a slice, but are the travelling teams compensated as they are during the season?

Jammer

November 28th, 2012
11:57 am

57Cat
The way i understand it the payouts work the same way for the playoffs except the percentages are adjusted due to non contract agreed payouts as are done with visiting teams during the regular season IE Carver Columbus was garanteed a certain $$ to come to Moultrie to play.
The home school still absorbs the cost of the stadium out of there share, the extra cost of the tickets goes to the extra GHSA staff the works the play offs.

Jammer

November 28th, 2012
12:27 pm

Playing at a neutral site on first look sounds appealing, but when you start to break it down not so much. First there is the expense of venue (rental). can most of the A, AA schools justify that cost as there fans numbers are generally alot lower than the bigger AAAAAA schools. Ok to help that lets play multiple games to increase the draw. There are 28 games scheduled for this Friday, so multiple venues are needed and then split for 2 days.
Then there is the fact that team fans do not travel as well as they bring in the home crowd. I am referencing this on typical Region 1 being 2000-3000 home fans to traveling with average of 1500. It is hard to imagine that the Atl area schools would bring the crowds when they have trouble filling the stands at home

sportsnut

November 28th, 2012
12:38 pm

Win all your games and let someone else worry about it.

spider

November 28th, 2012
12:52 pm

well sportsnut, norcross did win all their games and still lost.

Dewayne

November 28th, 2012
12:55 pm

Why not have the four brackets in each classification play at different neutral fields? Then the semis and finals played at the Georgia Dome? NW NE SE SW division so no one has to travel to South Ga. from North Ga. for a playoff game. I know South Ga. isn’t close to Atlanta, but by that time who cares you would be playing in the “final 4″.

spider

November 28th, 2012
12:55 pm

hopefully a couple of norcross rich parents and alum will pitch in with the cost.

Graydog

November 28th, 2012
1:09 pm

I think the coin toss is not all Norcross will lose this week.Teams peak and let down. A team that peaked very early in the season ,then, let down ,and, peaked again is an experienced,determined and focused team. Good luck Norcross.

Dum-Bass

November 28th, 2012
1:14 pm

Apparently at some schools, this is not a problem anyway. I know some in 1-AAAAAA, such as Propst and the Packers always go up a day early to games around Atlanta, and have heard the cost is paid by the Packer Booster club. Probably is true, because he does it consistently, and as we all know they have a lot of road games in the playoffs it seems every year. They must like it, they keep winning them!

eaglenationrising

November 28th, 2012
1:27 pm

This is a very interesting article that I wish was getting more traction with posters. I have stated this for years when “clueless” posters and even AJC writers have suggested that programs need to be in regions that are hundreds of miles apart. There has been this steady cry for Camden County to play in Region 1 and programs like Northside (Warner Robins) and Warner Robins to play in Region 1. Thus exposing the students to hours of bus time and the athletic departments to crippling travel costs. It simply makes no logical sense.

The costs are high for state playoff games. The gas costs alone are high for any events (tennis matches, soccer, basketball, One Act, Debate, Literary, you name it). The state has to take a long look at how they are doing business. I believe that the GHSA is in somewhat of a time vacuum over there in Thomaston. Georgia is the 9th largest state in America. However, there are only 8 regions. There has to be a better way.

Reg 5aaaaa guy

November 28th, 2012
1:30 pm

Visiting team gets 50 percent of revenues plus travel expenses set by ghsa per mile….off the top after the 12 percent sent to ghsa
Home team actually gets less money than the traveling team and has to pay security etc out of their portion

DTL918

November 28th, 2012
1:31 pm

They could do it just the same way we do here in Texas……every playoff game for the entire playoffs is at a neutral site, and both schools must agree or else the UIL (GHSA) in your case, decides for you. No such thing as home field advantage in high school football playoffs in Texas.

TX Jacket

November 28th, 2012
1:32 pm

In Texas, every game in all 6 rounds of playoffs for all 10 football divisions is played at a neutral site unless the teams agree to a home game situation. Teams will definately choose a game venue based on rental cost to cut expenses. For long trips, games are late afternoon on Saturday so there is no hotel stay… drive out, play, drive back. Needless to say, long trips for games in Texas is common. All championship games this year (and last year) are at Jerry world in Arlington.
In Colorado, higher seeded teams only get home field in the first round and after that it is a coin toss to see who’s home field gets used. Championship games have been being played at Mile High for a few years.

eaglenationrising

November 28th, 2012
1:32 pm

@ Dewayne: This is because so many people in specific parts of the nation believe their region is something special. As a Northside fan, we found it laughable that these folks in southwest Georgia believe that their region is something different. I am from Warner Robins and I live in metro Atlanta. Like many Atlantans, we here all of this stuff from Gwinnett County, who are convinced that their part of the state is unique. The entire scenario is crazy.

Jammer

November 28th, 2012
1:41 pm

“What happens with coaches in every sport, they like or dislike a rule based on the last time the rule came into play for or against them. As long as they haven’t had a bad recent experience with a rule, they’re not in the mood to change anything.”

This statement in the article is the bottom line, if it aint you, your not worried bout it. If Camden had lost this coin toss I doubt we would even have this article to read. Anyone got an estimate of how many miles Colquitt County has traveled just in Playoff games since 09 with only 1 of them played at home?

aaron ashmore

November 28th, 2012
2:04 pm

I still don’t like the idea of a netural venue. In small towns, a lot of “mom and pop” businesses donate to the local football program. I would like to see those same stores get a large “pay day” by hosting a semi or the final game at home (providing it’s THEIR local school playing). Kind of a hard pill to swallow when your quarterly income is slightly off but yet you contribute money/items to your local football program and a similar sized town 100 miles away gets a hugh payday for hosting a game because it’s the “halfway” point btw the two schools.

aaron ashmore

November 28th, 2012
2:08 pm

@Dewayne: Good point on the NW NE SE SW division for the state. They did a “similar” thing in years past with the north/south champion mtg for the championship.

high school sports fan

November 28th, 2012
2:15 pm

GHSA FOOTBALL PLAYOFF FINANCES
D. Financial Procedures:
1. Total game receipts will include all revenue from ticket sales plus any payments for radio or television
broadcasting, and will not include money from the sale of programs and concessions.
2. All band chaperones and other support personnel must have tickets.
3. The division of game receipts will be handled as follows:
(a) From the gross receipts:
(1) Twelve percent (12%) will be sent to the GHSA Office along with a financial report. Each Football
Financial Report Form shall include the number of spectators admitted with a GHSA pass, along with
a copy of the sign-in sheets listing the names and numbers of the passes used.
(2) The visiting team shall receive reimbursement for travel expenses in the amount of $5.00 per mile (one
way) taken from the game receipts and guaranteed by the host school. NOTE: If the game is played
at a neutral site, both teams will be reimbursed for mileage.
(3) The game officials shall be paid.
(b) After the items in Section “a” above have been paid, the remainder shall be divided equally between the
two teams.
(c) Local service charges, stadium charges, lights, cost of operating personnel, etc., are not to be deducted
prior to the division of funds, and are considered a part of the expenses of the host school.

Some states split the playoffs into two sections…MS has North Half and South Half. It cuts travel to no more than 3 hours for most games. The state championship games are in Jackson which is basically centrally located. Tennessee splits their’s East/West due to the length of the state from E to W. Finals are in Nashville or used to be.

Adam

November 28th, 2012
2:22 pm

@aaron ashmore: That could be simplified even more by just having a Northern and Southern bracket like Alabama does. The southern champ meets the northern champ in the finals on a neutral field.

mightyredelephants

November 28th, 2012
2:26 pm

@sportsnut: winning all of your games doesn’t solve the issue. That’s why Norcross and Camden had to flip a coin…they are both region champions

Jammer

November 28th, 2012
2:27 pm

@aaron ashmore
the issue with a north vs south is if you look at the logistics, south of Hwy 16 in griffen there is only Region 1 AAAAAA , there would still be a hefty amount of travel expense.
And I have to agree with ENR that there are more events than football that these schools compete in without the budgets given to the football team.

in support of students

November 28th, 2012
2:46 pm

An article or investigation on how much money the GHSA gets from the playoffs, fees, and fines would be very enlightening. They charge way too much which inturn takes money away from kids. 10 or 12% of every playoff gate in every sport and they charge a yearly fee and fines. That is a large amount of money and where does it go?

aaron ashmore

November 28th, 2012
3:06 pm

@Jammer
You are right. The funds for other sports does not compare to football and in some cases, other sports “dip” into football money to help offset cost. I’m still for the “hometown” hosting playing and championship games. The Dome was ok for the semi but nothing like a “home” feel when you win it all.

Older Camden Cat

November 28th, 2012
3:11 pm

Just get on the bus and take that long ((BUS)) ride down here like we have done for years have a good trip and be safe.

Keenan

November 28th, 2012
3:31 pm

GHSA need to establish a power rating system. I’m originally from Louisiana and continue to follow their HS football and that’s what they do.

David Purdum

November 28th, 2012
3:46 pm

@highschoolsportsfan — Awesome info. Appreciate it.

@Keenan: Talked to Camden AD about power ratings. He said, “But who’s do you use? Sometimes you look at the rankings or ratings and simply don’t agree with them.” I’m a NOLA guy, BTW. Covered Slidell/Northshore football when Forte was there. Big-time talent down there.

Dewayne

November 28th, 2012
3:52 pm

NORTH and SOUTH would work, but the travel time would still be crazy. That’s why I suggested the 4 divisions to cut travel time in half at least. I know it would never happen, but it’s just a thought!!

Farcus

November 28th, 2012
4:07 pm

THE TRUE HURT

November 28th, 2012
10:32 am
This sound like GOP 2012 election, out dated southern thinking. MOVE FORWARD GHSA.

You are an idiot but, you probably already knew that fact.

Top Recruit

November 28th, 2012
4:33 pm

So it cost Norcross about $20,000 to $25,000 for their preseaon game against Colquitt County. And it probably cost that same amount for Camden County and Colquitt County to play in the Dome in August in the Corky Kell Classic.
Now ponder this. No team in the state of Georgia has played more road games and won more in playoff format the past 4 years than Colquitt County in rural south Georgia. How much do you think that costs the school system and the fans of Colquitt County, including boosters and season ticket holders. Those numbers would stun a lot of those Gwinnett County and metro Atlanta schools.
You can bet restuarants, motels, and shopping malls along I-75 the past few years have benefitted from the Colquitt County teams, cheerleaders, band, fans,and supporters. Put some more dollars out there that benefitted someone else other than Colquitt County.

i'mjustsayingwhati'msaying

November 28th, 2012
4:38 pm

Camden County has been traveling with a coin toss for years and this is the firs article that I have seen about it. Teams can decide whether or not to leave a day early. This is not a requirement, makes good sense though. So the food and hotel stay is something the school takes on in leaving a day early. Good information and insight has been given, but again, why now?

David Purdum

November 28th, 2012
4:51 pm

@i’mjustsayingwhati’msaying: To your question of why now: I haven’t been covering preps for the AJC in awhile; this was my first season in close to five years. I’ve been trying to cover different angles this season and thought the coin flip was an interesting story. Hoped it would drum up discussion of ways we can eliminate it. I can’t believe Coach Herron had lost so many coin flips. Appreciate you reading.

Colquitt Fan

November 28th, 2012
4:52 pm

I don’t believe for a second it costs 25K a trip. Rush only takes the two deep up the day before. That’s 44 players max, at four to a room that’s 11 rooms for players and say two coaches per room. I don’t see more than $2000 on rooms per trip. I would imagine theybge a deal for renting 20-25 rooms for no more than $100 a night. How much is it for buses and food? $20,000? No way it costs that much. Remember a few weeks ago when rush was Cheatin for going up a day early?

David Purdum

November 28th, 2012
4:58 pm

@TopRecruit: According to multiple posters above, road teams end up making out all right. The fans and local sponsors, like you said, are the ones that really lose out. Tough spot for South Georgia folks.

Scott

November 28th, 2012
5:00 pm

East Coweta made the trip last weekend to Camden County. The EC Booster Club pays for the cost to travel., rented Charter busses for the trip. The boys left the school at 10 am, booster club got sandwiches for them and they stopped and ate lunch in a rest area. They stopped again at a Cracker Barrell for dinner, again paid for by the booster club. They then got back on the busses after the game and got home around 4 am. From what I understand they got half the gate, not sure if there was some milage paid. It is very expensive and from what I have been told for all road games the cost of travel is paid by the booster clubs.

StingerSplash

November 28th, 2012
5:08 pm

I’m sure we can figure out who Maloof is (or already know) but there is no previous reference until we are presented with a quote from the singularly-named Maloof.

StingerSplash

November 28th, 2012
5:09 pm

Besides, has anyone seen Camden’s stadium? Like they don’t have $20G hanging around for a trip like that?

lookwhostalkin

November 28th, 2012
5:20 pm

Ok – Colquitt Fan – so our schools AD is a liar, What does he gain by saying the costs of these trips are way more than u believe. So you can move the whole team and all the coaches, trainers etc. for pennies – maybe you should take the AD’s job and save all of us some doe-ray-me. Camden has never complained – like somebody else said earlier – if we had lost the flip – you wouldn’t be wasting your cost cuttin fingers…. Just Sayin….

Stump_Meister

November 28th, 2012
5:20 pm

Play the darn games in Macon and get it over with. I dont live there but would drive there to see good quality games such as the ones coming up this weekend. Win-win for everyone, If teams from Macon happen to get in, good for them. Seems like a simple solution, but then again, with all the “politics” involved, what do I know?

Colquitt Fan

November 28th, 2012
5:39 pm

Lol did I say he was a liar? Quit cryin. What are the costs that add up to that much?

Camden74

November 28th, 2012
5:50 pm

No mater what type of system GHSA implements, there will be a complaint form one or more sections of the state. Any system put into place will have some type of flaw. The teams down South have dealt with long travel and high travel expenses for years. It’s just the nature of living in a rural area and having HS sports teams. One sure way for a team to reduce it’s travel expenses during the playoffs is to finish higher in your region. That’s why every game counts! Roll on Camden County Wildcats, Roll on! :-D