Lesson No. 1 when it comes to following the GHSA executive committee: Never underestimate the passions that reclassification brings to the table.
In some states, reclassification is nothing more than a bureaucratic afterthought. Trot out a new set of attendance figures, juggle some teams around, print up a new list of region assignments, and that’s that.
Not so in Georgia, where fans of high school sports have talked about, debated and dissected proposals for the new set of regions that will come into play a year from now. Everything from the number of classifications to out-of-district multipliers to how many teams should make the playoffs became points of conversation.
Judging by how my Twitter feed exploded Monday while covering the executive committee meeting, there was significant feeling fueling those conversations.
In doing a couple of radio interviews following the meeting, in which the executive committee added a classification and expanded the Class A playoff pools, one question asked of me jumped out: Is the GHSA done expanding the number of classifications it has?
It was only 15 years ago when the GHSA expanded from four to five classifications. Those five championships became seven in 2012, when Class AAAAAA was added and Class A was split for the playoffs into public and private school brackets.
Next year, when the so-called “Big 44” classification is added, there will be eight championship games held in the GHSA’s major sports. For football, that will mean two long days of championship action, with games starting at 10 a.m. and running until nearly midnight.
In all, 48 playoff spots will be added to the GHSA postseason structure next year: the 32 in the “Big 44,” along with eight each in Class A public and Class A private as those brackets are expanded from 16 to 24 teams.
One executive committee member brought up the number of championships under the new plan and asked if competition was starting to become watered down with the extra championships. Another member responded by citing the participation opportunities the expansion provides, saying the chance to play for a championship drives up participation numbers.
Both sides have valid points. For those who value the competition angle and the battle to determine the best teams in the state, the value of a championship goes up with the fewer number of championships offered. For those who value giving as many high school student-athletes as possible the exposure a state championship platform can provide, a greater number of championship games is desirable.
As someone who worked in Indiana during the closing years of its great single-class basketball tournament in the mid-1990s, I tend to side with those who want to see fewer, more important championship games. But I also see the enrollment gap between Atlanta’s giant schools and the small county schools of rural Georgia and the remedy that multiple classifications bring. Eight classifications is a good number for football; Florida has made that number work well in recent years. But eight might be too many for sports in which the roster size is limited, such as for sports like basketball.
As far as the effect of all of these changes on Middle Georgia’s teams, there might not be very much.
Working with the 2013 enrollment numbers, without accounting for schools wanting to play up or schools with high out-of-county enrollment figures, there might be as few as a half-dozen schools in Middle Georgia that will change classifications.
Most affected will be the Houston County schools. The three largest -- Northside, Houston County and Warner Robins -- likely will move up to Class AAAAAA, while Veterans likely will join Baldwin in moving up to Class AAAAA.
In Bibb County, Central looks to move up to Class AAAA, while Westside and Rutland are near the dividing line between Class AAA and Class AAAA, according to 2013 figures.
One other school that might be affected, Jeff Davis, is on the line between Class AA and Class AAA. but most Class A and Class AA schools, barring enrollment shifts or (in the case of Class AA schools) high out-of-county enrollment figures, likely will remain in their previous classifications.
That’s a lot to digest for something that won’t occur for another year. For now, it’s time to launch the 2015 season and time to get on the road to see which 14 teams reach the Georgia Dome in December.
Contact Ron Seibel at 744-4222 or firstname.lastname@example.org