GHSA reclassification under review as vote approaches

Ralph Swearngin, executive director of the Georgia High School Association, said he usually has a pretty good idea about what's going to happen before any major proposals are presented to the state's governing body for high school athletics.

This time, however, Swearngin said he's not so sure about the hotly debated of reclassification, or how the GHSA's 422 member schools will be divided for competition.

Three ideas are being strongly considered, and one of them will be proposed for a vote at Monday's meeting of the GHSA's 50-member executive committee.

It could be the most radical change among the state's classifications in more than a decade, or it may be a few tweaks to the existing structure. Swearngin doesn't have a gut instinct one way or the other.

"People are all over the map with reclassification, and there's no consensus," he said. "As we swap ideas, there doesn't seem to be one plan out of the three main ones that everybody is getting behind right now."

Geographical and population concerns are prompting a change, which would take effect in fall 2012. Here's a quick look at the three most popular proposals being discussed by the reclassification committee:

Staying at five classifications

The current system would remain intact, with tweaks such as changing the percentage of schools in each classification. Currently, the state's largest classification (AAAAA) has the fewest schools with 63, while the smallest classification (A) has the most with 109.

Expanding to six classifications

This plan would be like 2000 all over again, when the classifications increased by one, and perhaps most important, would keep in place all existing procedures, such as playoff brackets.

Reducing to four classifications

Under this model, the GHSA would drop to four classifications and have eight state championships. Under one scenario, there would be eight regions of around 100 schools per class. At the start of the playoffs, the largest 50 schools would play for one state championship (such as Class AA, Division I), while the rest compete for another.

The 12 members of the reclassification committee will meet Sunday in Macon to review each plan before determining which one to reveal the next day. They could also decide not to propose anything, but that is highly unlikely.

"I think most people feel like something needs to be done," Swearngin said. "The question is how radical of a change do we want to make. We're not going to change just for the sake of change. It has to be able to solve the problems we're looking at."

Among metro Atlanta's athletic directors, there appears to be growing support for expansion to six classifications. Here are some opinions:

Creekside's Mekia Troy: "Expanding to six classes makes sense for narrowing the population gap between the largest and smallest schools in AAAAA and AAAA. It might also provide some relief for large regions in smaller classes. Four classes with two champions would always leave us to wonder if one division champion could've beaten the other. I'd be all right with the current five classes if there really was a fair way to balance the percentages. But if that existed, we probably wouldn't be in this situation now."

Johns Creek's Mike Cloy: "I support six classifications because that would put the largest schools in the state in a 'mega region.' It would also allow more schools and regions to play closer rivals and help end all the excessive travel and out-of-school time for our student-athletes."

McEachern's Jimmy Dorsey: "I think going to six classifications has merit. It allows more teams to get into the playoffs, which I think is a concern that many have. It really does not affect the larger schools, but gives relief to some of the more remote areas of the state. And, of course, I think leaving it as it is has merit as well. I would like to see them not allow teams to move up. I think if you fall in a certain classification, you should have to stay in it."

Norcross' Kirk Barton: "I like keeping the five classifications and changing the percentages. I feel like it is the easiest and least complicated. However if there has to be a change, I would go with the six classifications."

Pope's Steven Craft: "My first thought is to keep the five classifications, but the percentage of schools in each classification needs to be adjusted. There are too many schools in Class AAAA. ... With that being said, I can see six classifications being a positive compromise."

Riverwood's Jeff Holloway: "I think [six] classifications best suits the state and makes the most sense. [Four classifications] has too many holes in it. How would you line up the regions? How would you determine playoff seeding? If a team opts to play up, are they opting up to the next tier or next classification?"