GHSA's expansion to 6 classifications gets late change, approval

The Georgia High School Association’s expansion from five to six classifications on Monday received a late alteration and then a unanimous vote, finally setting it in motion.

“Six classifications is a done deal; that is correct,” said Ralph Swearngin, the GHSA’s executive director.

The original legislation, which was narrowly approved last May, remained basically the same for dividing the GHSA’s 443 member high school into six classifications for athletic competition. A minor change for the expansion, which will take effect in next year in August, will allow the GHSA some leeway in dividing the up schools in each classification by 1-2 percentage points.

The GHSA’s Executive Committee first voted to rescind the same reclassification legislation that passed last May, but did so only to permit the final change. While the Executive Committee took a brief recess, the reclassification committee quickly worked out a compromise that was approved with a unanimous voice vote. Presented to the Executive Committee, it passed unanimously.

It was a stark contrast to last May’s GHSA meeting, when the expansion passed by the narrowest of margins with a 26-24 vote.

“The compromise was to stay with six classifications, but to slightly change the percentages so we could address schools that may have geographical or travel challenges, and also to get better balance after some schools choose to move up and play in a higher classification,” Swearngin said.

Under the previous plan, Class AAAAAA, AAAAA, AAAA, AAA, and AA would each consist of between 15 and 16 percent of the state’s overall high schools. On Monday, all but Class A had between 14-17 percent of the schools. Class A will stay around 22 percent because it has many non-football schools.

“That’s what we asked for: for them to have enough confidence to give us some leeway,” said Dave Hunter, the former Brookwood football coach, who is on the GHSA’s reclassification committee. “What we don’t want is to have 17 percent in most of the classes, and then come back with 12 percent in another.

“There was a lot of cooperation from everybody. Now no one can say that the Class AAAAAA guys can do this, while Class AAAA can get away with this other thing. It’s all set up in advance.”

Region 2-A’s proposal to challenge the legality of last May’s reclassification vote was dropped on Monday after that particular legislation was rescinded and sent back to the subcommittee.

Monday’s biggest surprise was tabling the proposal to divide Class A between schools located in urban and rural areas in an effort to balance competition. It was good news for the proposal’s supporters.

“People want to know more about it,” Swearngin said. “Obviously, it would be easy to say, ‘I don’t know about it so I am going to vote against it.’ But they are keeping the door open on that one.”

The urban-rural Class A proposal will be discussed again by the reclassification committee on Sept. 13. If approved, it will be presented in front of the Executive Committee in a special meeting in October.

Also, the GHSA discussed the policy for hot-weather conditions after the deaths of two high school football players who collapsed following practices earlier this month. Several board members presented concerns and ideas, while the Executive Committee will wait until next January or later to take any action after reviewing medical data from a three-year scientific study by the University of Georgia.