The Georgia High School Association may be set to change the way it classifies schools.
The Reclassification Committee will meet today in Macon, ahead of Monday’s Executive Committee meeting, to propose the format for the next alignment of schools, which will determine which schools are in each class and ultimately who their region opponents will be for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years. The Executive Committee will either vote on the board’s recommendation, or table the decision.
Under the current five-class format, schools are grouped according to enrollment numbers, and then placed in geographic regions to determine which teams advance for the chance to win state titles in athletics, one-act play, debate and literary competitions.
Sometimes region alignment forces schools, such as Northwest Whitfield, to play region schedules with schools a great distance away. The Bruins’ two closest opponents, Rome High and Cass in Cartersville, are each more than 50 miles away. Four other region schools, in Fulton and Forsyth counties, are more than 100 miles, creating one the problems the GHSA is looking to minimize in the new classification system.
“When you’ve got to be on a school bus for a total of five hours, it’s not a good thing for the kids,” Northwest soccer coach Ryan Scoggins said. “I hope they will consider travel. Metro Atlanta teams don’t need to travel up to Tunnel Hill, and we don’t need to be down there, unless it’s for the playoffs.”
According to several published reports, the proposal for the new classification will come down to one of three likely scenarios, including keeping the current five-class setup with minor changes, adding a sixth class or reducing to four classes, which would then split in the postseason to produce eight different state champions.
The GHSA had five classes from 1956-71 before returning to four in 1972, until expanded to five again for the 2000-01 school year.
In 2000, the GHSA classified 377 schools. According to its website (www.ghsa.net), the GHSA will have at least 436 schools to align for 2012-13.
Under the suggested new four-class plan, more teams would be in each class, making the regions, hopefully, more compact. After teams qualified for the state through region play, the schools with the larger enrollments would play for one state title, while the smaller-sized teams would play for another within each classification, resulting in eight state champions.
state title, while the smaller-sized teams would play for another within each classification, resulting in eight state champions.
“I’m not sure what they should do,” Southeast football coach David Crane said. “I kind of like the idea of having four classes and splitting them in two for the playoffs. I think that’s a way to get more teams an opportunity to compete in the playoffs, and then more opportunities to play for a championship. At the same time, it addresses some of the travel issues.”
In addition to the travel, region alignments can force teams to forgo playing local teams to fulfill a region schedule.
“It kills the atomsphere,” Northwest boys basketball coach Ryan Richards said of the Bruins’ region schedule this year. “We played so many times in empty gyms. I think the idea of high school athletics is to have strong programs and get good gates. Right now, we’ve killed that.”
The impact that including private schools has on competition also draws complaints from coaches and fans. An ad-hoc committee is also on the agenda to give a report on “recruiting and undue influence” on prospective students at Monday’s Executive Committee meeting.
“We don’t have to deal with that, but I understand those public school’s concerns,” Crane said. “I do think there should be some kind of multiplier rule. There needs to be something done.”
At one time, the GHSA used a 1.5 multiplier for private schools after former Georgia Speaker of the House Tom Murphy brought pressure on the organization, but it was done away with after Murphy left the House. The enrollment numbers of those schools were multiplied by 1.5, and then those schools were classified based on that number.
The issue of private school is that the GHSA allows a private school to draw any students from their county “service area.” A school like Savannah Christian, which played for the Class A state title in football this fall, may have Class A enrollment numbers, but any student in Chatham County is eligible to play at the school. Chatham County has a population of more than 250,000 people. Irwin County, which defeated Savannah Christian for the title, has a population of less than 11,000.
City schools such as Dalton, Buford, Dublin and Calhoun have also come under fire by some since they have open enrollments as well.
“What would be good for tennis is to stick the private schools in their own league,” Dalton coach David Hilley said. “And do that with every minor sport out there. If you look at the state tennis titles in the last 20 years, you can count on a little more than one hand how many of them were not private schools. We don’t get to go out and get the best people we can. We’re stuck with who lives in our school district. I have had teams that were good enough to make the final four, but they weren’t able to compete with schools like Marist, St. Pius and Woodward. It’s hard to get through them.”