published Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

GHSA approves six-classification system

AREA TEAMS IN NEW SYSTEM

How area teams in the 2012-13 school year would be placed in the GHSA’s six-classification system based on the current cycle’s student enrollement numbers (schools are listed from largest to smallest in each region):

Region 6-AAAAA — Osborne, Sprayberry, Sequoyah, Woodland-Cartersville, Allatoona, Pope, Dalton, Kell, Rome.

Region 7-AAAA — Cass, Ridgeland, Southeast Whitfield, Northwest Whitfield, Pickens, Gilmer County, LaFayette, Paulding County, River Ridge, Heritage.

Region 6-AAA — Cedartown, Central Carroll, Haralson County, Cartersville, Adairsville, Pepperell, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, Murray County, Sonoraville, Ringgold, North Murray.

Region 7-AA — Calhoun, Armuchee, Chattooga, Coahulla Creek, Coosa, Dade County, Model, Gordon Central, Rockmart, Gordon Lee.

Region 6-A — Trion, Mount Zion, Mount Paran, Walker, North Cobb Christian, Excel Christian, Georgia School for the Deaf, Fellowship Christian, Darlington.

Led by a block of support from Atlanta-area schools, the Georgia High School Association approved Tuesday a six-classification plan for the next cycle, beginning with the 2012-13 school year. In doing so the state’s prep ruling body both surprised and pleased most northwest Georgia coaches.

“I like it,” Calhoun athletic director and football coach Hal Lamb said. “I wasn’t for the 4/8 plan for several reasons, and I’m sure there will be pros and cons to this plan. Right now, it looks like we’ll remain in Class AA and our region will look fairly similar. Of course, we’ll have to wait on the [enrollment] numbers.”

Under the plan, which was introduced by committee member and former Brookwood football coach Dave Hunter, Class AAAAAA will be made up of the top 15 percent of the state’s member schools in student population, with AAAAA getting the next 15 percent. Classes AAAA, AAA and AA each will have 16 percent. Class A, because many of its schools do not play football, will have 22 percent.

The 4/8 plan would have had four classifications for the regular season and eight for the postseason. Though that plan was approved by the committee and submitted for vote, the GHSA tabled the first vote last month and Tuesday it was soundly defeated by a vote of 35-15.

This is where the GHSA threw the state a surprise. Director Ralph Swearingn previously had said that if the 4/8 plan were voted down, the state would continue with its five-classification plan. However, the six-class plan was re-submitted for vote, was seconded and was approved 26-24. Atlanta-area schools voted 17-0 in favor.

Several dissenting committee members have vowed to appeal the vote, saying the GHSA’s constitution was not followed correctly.

Charlton County athletic director Jesse Crews, a committee member who supported the 4/8 plan, told the Gainesville Times that since the reclassification committee previously had voted down the six-class plan, it could be not be brought back up unless the committee approved it.

“We brought the 4/8, that was defeated, so now you have nothing,” Crews said. “But we let another person who serves on the reclassification committee bring a plan that didn’t come from the reclassification committee, and I interpret the White Book (GHSA constitution) as saying that can’t happen. And that’s pretty well black and white.”

What wasn’t immediately clear was what it would mean to northwest Georgia schools, though if this cycle’s enrollment numbers were used, several longtime rivals would be separated. For instance, longtime rivals Gordon Lee and Trion would not be in the same class, with Gordon Lee moving up to AA and Trion remaining in Class A.

“Hopefully we can keep our rivalry with Gordon Lee,” Trion athletic director and football coach David Humphreys said. “We’ve played for 61 consecutive years, and I would hate for it to end now. The problem is, from what I see, they would be in a 10-team region and would have just one nonregion game.”

In addition, Dalton would be the lone area school in Class AAAAA, while Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe and Ringgold would be in Class AAA with newer Catoosa County school Heritage in Class AAAA. The same would go for Gordon County’s three schools, with Calhoun and Gordon Central remaining in Class AA and Sonoraville moving to AAA.

Of course, the new enrollment numbers could change everything.

One positive is that with six classifications and eight regions in each class, no region should have to be subdivided.

“If the plan stays, it would end the subdividing, and I know everyone would approve that,” Lamb said. “That will help with scheduling, and it will give each region a fairer way to select its playoff teams.”

about Lindsey Young...

Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...

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