Under normal circumstances, Monday’s GHSA meeting that is supposed to determine reclassification for the next two-year cycle might be a fairly contentious one.
There is a proposal to create a “super” class for football, this time of 44 schools, although it could end up being more.
And there is likely to be the usual debate involving enrollment figures for private schools and open enrollment schools, as well as the geographic zones for those schools.
But there probably won’t be much contentiousness or extended debate, since the meeting is on the Monday preceding the first football game for nearly 25 percent of the football-playing members.
It’s doubtful many football coaches will make the meeting.
“It is an (interesting) time to bring something like this about, because most football coaches right now have worried about it and fussed about it since January,” Dublin head coach and athletics director Roger Holmes said. “Now it’s football season, and we’ve got other fish to fry. That’s a good time to have a meeting.”
Mary Persons athletics director and head coach Brian Nelson is only 30 minutes away from the meeting
“I can’t go to it,” he said, noting a sparse crowd at the last meeting, a Monday morning in July in Thomaston. “I hate to say it, but I’m worried about this week and the week after.”
No Middle Georgia schools are in jeopardy of coming close to being put in the “Big 44” class. According to the last reclassification figures, Northside was the eighth-largest Class AAAAA school and at least 40 slots below any cutoff.
The number of schools in that largest class might be more than 44 with schools playing up. But there will be a trickle-down effect for the other classes as the cutoff lines are changed between classes.
Nothing voted on goes through without debate, but the plan is expected to pass, although Nelson thinks it’s much more complicated than it seems when considering south Georgia schools and geography.
Nevertheless, reclassification regarding the rest of the state, as usual, won’t be nearly as simple. For one, there were 14 proposals made at the July 20 reclassification meeting, including several from Middle Georgia: Nelson, Putnam County’s Kyle Gourley, FPD’s Greg Moore, Vidalia’s Lee Chomskis and Holmes.
Others came from Region 1-AA, Don Corr of the Cherokee County Board of Education, Bob Stinchcomb of Darlington, Bradley Warren of Dade County, a group of Atlanta area private schools, Tim McFarlin of Blessed Trinity and Robert Dortch of Bremen. Retired Brookwood athletics director and coach Dave Hunter, a GHSA executive committee member, had a proposal, as did Earl Etheridge, retired as an athletics administrator for Savannah schools and football coach and long-time executive committee member. Etheridge withdrew his to join Hunter in co-authoring a proposal.
The reclassification committee tabled for discussion in the Sunday-Monday meetings the proposals by Region 1-AA, Corr, Nelson, Moore, the Atlanta private schools, McFarlin, Dorch and the one co-authored by Etheridge and Hunter. Some are extensive and offer pages of scenarios and facts -- Corr’s is 46 pages -- while others are as short as a typed page.
Dorch’s plan discusses reclassification on a championships-based point system, asking, “Has there been a proposal for a promotion system based upon a school’s overall success rate for the reclassification cycle?”
What will still stir the most debate, minus a large number of coaches, involves a school’s service area and a variety of aspects therein. The consternation involving the zone for private schools and open-enrollment schools hasn’t dwindled. Nor does it appear to have been clarified much.
Dublin is a city school, but according to Holmes, it could count the entire county as a service area for GHSA purposes on counting out-of-zone students. There are also several open-enrollment schools that aren’t private schools, which have the freedom to determine their enrollment based on a selection process. A school could select only enough new students to remain in a certain classification.
“I still believe that the biggest advantage, the number one thing that creates an unlevel playing field, is the ability to have selective enrollment,” Holmes said. “The thing is when you can select who you let in, that’s an advantage.”
Throw in schools that are city schools but have city limits in two counties, and that adds to the congestion. Defining what is out of zone and then what percentage of out of zone students to use are expected to be major discussion points. The latter is a huge item.
There are proposals that could make a school play in a higher class -- a substantial jump in some cases -- if the number of out-of-zone students is of a certain percentage. One proposal sets the number at three percent, which likely would cause great havoc. Nelson proposed seven percent, and Holmes said he’s heard 10 percent getting support.
But any school that has too many moves up a class, so what percentage is used is clearly of concern.
“Right now, it doesn’t matter if you’re the smallest school in your classification,” Holmes said.
Dublin is in the middle of Class AA right now, with 200 fewer students than the smallest Class AAA school based on the last reclassification enrollment numbers. But Holmes said there are some county schools in Middle Georgia that have a fair number out-of-county students because of location, when students are much closer to the out-of-county high school. Toombs County, Washington County, Macon County and Crawford County are among the schools in the lower third of their classifications that could be forced to make a jump if the numbers say so.
“It’s a head-scratcher all the way around,” Nelson said. “Say there’s 500 high schools in Georgia. This plan may work good for 450. What about the other 50? Well ... At the end of the day, you want to have the fairest plan possible for as many people possible. If they do that, I think people can live with it. But it’s hard.”