There are times when high school sports are messy, confusing and somewhat aggravating, like when reclassification is the topic.
It’s much more than just snagging enrollment numbers -- which can be conveniently flexible -- and looking at a map and putting schools in a class and region.
The process involves integrity, recruiting, poverty, bad teachers and parents and coaches, history, tradition, demographics, accounting, ego, politics, economics, territoriality, greed and close-mindedness.
And, on occasion, it involves wanting to do the right thing.
There are no simple answers, formulas or equations, and the goal is to level a playing field that can only reach a certain level, an imperfect one. Talk to coaches and athletics directors, and that’s the most common refrain -- most fair for the most people -- along with unhappiness at the power plays and politics involved.
Georgia’s makeup in geography, demographics, lopsided population concentrations and too many municipalities makes many things complex, and this is one of many things. With each reclassification brawl, people find ideas and solutions that make sense and push the process toward improvement. Now, if only those in charge of the process would let that happen rather than allow the regular agenda-fueled brawls to continue.
Alas, here’s where the GHSA and its committees and those not really in it for everybody are likely to really fumble it out of the end zone again with the current reclassification sessions. We can expect some drastic proposals for 2016-18 crammed in, making for a very crunched time frame. More than one coach and athletics director has looked at the proposals and offered the prediction of a lawsuit or an injunction. It’s hard to argue.
There’s the Big 44, the latest version of a big-school super class that is nowhere near as simple as its advocates think. But the holes in that plan are fairly workable compared to the rest of the mess that must be inexplicably cleaned up every two years.
The GHSA reclassification committee heard 12 proposals in a meeting not long ago. After all these years, a dozen proposals were made on enrollment counts, open enrollment, private schools, quasi-private schools and the ability to play by standards different than the vast majority. This is the level of progress managed by the GHSA office, principals, athletics directors, coaches and some power players. It’s all enough to shake your head and make that shaking-your-head cartoon noise.
There is redundancy, logic and overthinking throughout the offerings.
And yet there’s enough there, if presented properly and by the right agenda-free people, to go a long way toward turning reclassification into something less than a collection of cable news talk-show hosts in a gabfest.
But it doesn’t need to be this way. Reclassification could be a tweak rather than reconstructive surgery all the time. There are definite complexities involved but not enough to kill major progress toward a more simple reclassification life.
Determine the zones, so that everybody has one. That’s only fair. Define out-of-zone students in a fair and clear way. Then finalize the percentages or multipliers or whatever in that equation and do so that the first changes aren’t tremendously drastic.
Clarify so much else and consult logical people for most items. Then show us what the state looks like under a few plans with specific numbers, debate it with the reminder that the goal is fairness for as many as possible and vote on it. Then every two years, reclassification wouldn’t turn into 5:30 p.m. on a rainy Friday on a highway in Atlanta.
For now, go with one more reclassification period similar to what we have with the mandate that a concrete long-term plan is ready within a year. Why be in a hurry to do it wrong? Isn’t it better to be late and right than early and wrong or incomplete?
All will be fine for two years if they can be clear and fair and prepared for the next reclassification to last four years and stabilize the entire process. That leads to us a feeling that will be with us forever: dissatisfaction. It used to be that the phrase “the greater good” actually meant something.
It’s easy to see all sides, but at some point, a level of “just suck it up for a while, and let’s check it out” comes into play. In reality, it’s a safe bet that the schools with advantages now will still have them, albeit perhaps fewer and less impactful, under any changed-but-fairer plan.
Schools are reportedly run by smart folks, so they can adjust, and maybe we’ll have a remotely palatable plan for a while, with more fairness, something everybody should be for.
Unless these folks just like sitting on an Atlanta highway on a rainy Friday afternoon.
Contact Michael A. Lough at 744-4626 or firstname.lastname@example.org