The Georgia High School Association, in an attempt to keep its membership intact, voted during a meeting Tuesday morning in Macon to split Class A public and private schools in every sport for the postseason playoffs.
The move, approved by a 36-12 margin, will create separate championships in Class A and go into effect beginning this fall. The vote came on the heels of a movement organized mostly by south Georgia Class A public schools to pull out of the GHSA.
The ruling Tuesday will create two 16-team Class A playoffs and give the GHSA, which will go to six classifications next year, seven championships. The public and private schools still will play each other during the regular season.
Gordon Lee associate athletic director Greg Ellis, who is on the advisory committee of the proposed Georgia Public School Association, believes the public/private split will keep the GHSA intact and is the right direction to take.
"We're very excited," Ellis said. "It's going to be good for everybody involved. We and [fellow northwest Georgia Class A public school] Trion are definitely in the same situation. It's very difficult to compete on the playing field we have right now. Now we'll be able to compete against programs like our own.
"All we were asking is to have a chance for the kids to have a positive experience in participating in high school athletics."
The GHSA had considered splitting all sports except football and basketball, but that plan did not satisfy the Class A public schools that were considering leaving. Tuesday's vote, according to a statement from Charlton County athletic director Jesse Crews, will save the GHSA.
"I think you watched people from across the state come together and show some unity," Crews told the Macon Telegraph. "Nobody wanted people to leave."
There are several details still to be decided upon, including how the 16 teams will qualify for the playoffs. Though Class A public schools feel the split is justified, some in the private school sector are claiming it makes winning a championship much less of an accomplishment.
Ellis, for one, believes a similar split works in other states and does not diminish the postseason.
"What do they say in Tennessee? Is that watered down because it's a private school division?" Ellis asked. "You still have to be good to win a state championship, and there are many good Class A public school programs. Everybody can have their own opinion, but unless you're a part of it and know the frustration that comes with having to complete against private schools, it's hard to understand.
"The [GHSA] committee still has a lot of work to do, but I think it's a very positive step by the GHSA."