GHSA executive committee members usually have a pretty good feeling about how a vote will turn out when they enter a meeting.
None of the committee’s 50 members could make that claim Tuesday morning when they walked into the Edgar H. Wilson Convention Centre ahead of a crucial vote on the state’s classification structure.
The special called meeting turned out to be as unpredictable as many expected.
After rejecting a tabled vote on a controversial 4/8 classification structure, the executive committee narrowly approved a six-classification plan that will go into effect during the 2012-14 reclassification cycle. The vote passed 26-24, with much of the support coming from Metro Atlanta representatives.
All 16 committee members representing schools or regions from the Atlanta area (Coweta, Fayette, Clayton, Cobb, Gwinnett, Forysth, Henry, DeKalb, Cherokee, Paulding, Bartow and Butts counties) voted in favor of the six-class plan. The only individuals from the Atlanta area voting against the plan were individuals representing organizations like the Georgia Athletic Directors Association and the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals.
“It seems there is a clear divide between Atlanta and the rest of the state,” said former Brookwood football coach Dave Hunter when asked about the voting breakdown for his plan and against the 4/8 plan. “That’s unfortunate.”
The six-class plan -- devised and proposed by Hunter -- would split the state’s 436 schools into six classes and is roughly similar to the GHSA’s current five-classification system.
The top two classes would each contain 15 percent of the member schools, while the next three classes would each contain 16 percent of the schools. The lowest classification would have 22 percent of the schools, although some of the smallest schools don’t play football.
Hunter believed animosity lingering from the failed vote on the 4/8 plan accounted for the close vote on the six-class plan. He said his plan would have received a larger majority had the vote been held later in the week after tensions eased.
After Savannah’s Earl Etheridge spoke passionately in favor of the 4/8 plan, the executive committee voted 35-15 to reject it. The plan would have classified the member schools into four classes for the regular season, with two tiers splintering off from each class to crown eight state champions.
“I didn’t like staying with a five-class plan at all,” Mary Persons athletics director Rodney Walker said. “I didn’t really like the 4/8 plan either, so I voted for the best option on the table.”
Much like the vote for the six-class plan, the Metro Atlanta representatives universally rejected the 4/8 plan.
Hunter’s plan seemed dead back on March 20 when the reclassification committee voted against it in favor of a 4/8 plan backed by Etheridge. The reclassification committee voted 6-5 to recommend Etheridge’s plan to the executive committee.
That plan turned out to have plenty of detractors, as well. Executive committee members argued and lobbed questions and comments at the reclassification committee members for more than an hour March 20, the day before the executive committee vote. Fearing the 4/8 plan would be rejected, its supporters voted to table the plan until Tuesday’s meeting.
The vote ended debate on reclassification for some, but the fight might not be over.
Charlton County’s Jesse Crews, a supporter of the 4/8 plan, said he wanted to challenge the committee’s vote on the six-classification plan. He believed the vote was a violation of Article III, Section 2 of the GHSA Constitution and By-Laws. The constitution outlines that the number of classifications and the number of regions will be determined by the reclassification committee. Crews said Tuesday’s vote circumvented the GHSA’s by-laws.
GHSA attorney Alan Connell said the full committee could listen to and vote on any proposal brought from the floor, based on his interpretation of the Constitution and By-Laws.
For the first time in the process of reclassification, a 3/6 plan was mentioned in an open meeting. That plan, authored by Loganville’s Tommy Stringer, would have operated similar to a 4/8 plan but with fewer regions and tiers. Stringer’s plan never gained any momentum Tuesday and Walker, one of its supporters, doubted it would have garnered enough support to pass.
“People would have said they didn’t know enough about it,” Walker said.
The next step for reclassification will come in October when the state releases its FTE numbers. The release of those numbers begins the process of region realignment, which is likewise usually a contentious issue.