4 Questions with GHSA reclass committee member Steven Craft

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High school football

Credit: For the AJC

Today’s interviewee is GHSA reclassification committee member Dr. Steven Craft, who with fellow committee member Jasper Jewell has proposed reorganizing Class A into divisions with larger and smaller schools instead of public and private schools beginning in 2022-23. The GHSA reclass committee heard this and other proposals Thursday but made no decision, as largely expected. Any recommendation would require GHSA executive committee approval, which could come no sooner than next month. Craft stressed the need for compromise to solve Class A’s problem with a dwindling number of private schools for the 2022-23 academic year.

Steven Craft, GHSA reclass committee member

1. In a nutshell, what problem must be resolved with Class A? “It’s got to be reorganized because we’ve got a lot of single-A private schools leaving, and we have a duty and responsibility to offer a meaningful championship experience to all of our members. We could be down to 24 teams in football. We can still have a championship bracket with 24 teams, but the championship bracket is just one aspect of it. If public and private schools are separate, those 24 teams playing in the regular season are then seeing the same exact 24 teams in the playoffs. We must make sure that they can make a 10-game schedule. Do we combine public and private schools? Do we break them out? Do we look at going back to power rankings? We’ll be having those conversations in the next couple of weeks to determine the right balance. We’ve had a lot of good conversation and dialogue. We just need to find the right solution.”

2. What are some of the good things about your proposal? “Everybody’s proposal is going to have positive and negatives. It depends on the perspective of the schools. What we liked about our proposal is that we stayed with two championships. We didn’t remove a championship. It’s keeping it the same. It would keep smaller public schools with the smaller private schools and pair the larger public schools with the larger private schools. The negative is that larger public schools feel they’d be at a disadvantage with private schools. I understand their sentiment. They’ve had separate public and private championships for the past 10 years. The public schools want to maintain that. There’s no right or wrong proposal. What we must find is the compromise that works for everybody.”

3. One reclassification member Thursday suggested going back to one Class A with public and private schools sharing eight regions, then breaking off into separate state-playoff brackets. That format required a points system to seed the two playoff brackets. What did you like and not like about that idea? “The positives are that there would be more teams in each region [with only eight regions instead of the current 16], and it would be easier for teams to get full schedules of teams to play [because of the built-in region games]. The negatives are that with a power ranking system, you could have a public school lose to a private school in their region, or vice-versa, and it could hurt them in the playoffs when they’re not even going to see that team in the playoffs. [Under the old power-ratings system that existed in Class A from 2012-13 to 2019-20, a public-school team could hurt its playoff seeding or even miss the playoffs because of losing a game to a private school, and vice-versa, even though public and private schools were in separate state playoff brackets.]

4. Another proposal was to apply an out-of-zone multiplier of 3.0 to Class A schools. What are the pros and cons of that? “The pros are that you’re applying a multiplier in all classes, and it would be the same for everybody. The negative is that we’d be completely re-doing the reclassification process. It wouldn’t be just sprinkling a few schools into higher classifications. You’d be doing away with public/private in single A, and we would have to readjust every class to even them out. Maybe at some point we’ll apply the multiplier to everybody. There also could be some competitive-balance solutions that could work. But I don’t think we’re there yet. Right now, we have to get to a compromise that works for everybody. Class A is in a tough spot.”

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