The Georgia High School Association voted last Tuesday to expand to six classifications for athletic competition, largely because of the unity of metro Atlanta.
The GHSA’s Executive Committee approved the increase from the existing structure of five classes by a narrow 26-24 margin.
Representatives from Atlanta-area regions voted 15-0 to support it, while also uniting 15-0 against an alternative plan earlier in the special called meeting.
The other proposal, called the “4/8 plan,” proposed reducing to four classifications and subdividing into two state tournaments per classification for the playoffs. That proposal failed by a 35-15 vote, permitting former Brookwood football coach Dave Hunter to propose six classifications.
Dawson County will be moved to Region 7-AAA. The Region will consist of West Hall, White County, North Hall, Buford, East Hall, Fannin County and Lanier in Gwinnett County.
“It will be tough with Buford and North Hall,” said Head Dawson County High School Football Coach Jeff Lee. “Lanier is a first year school, but they have great facilities and their numbers will only increase in Gwinnett County. On any given year West Hall, White County, East Hall and Fannin County will field a very competitive team. It will be difficult for us but there is not much we can do about it. We will just have to get better.
“We really don’t [know] the final outcome yet until they count students again in October. If we stay in this region we will be playing the best football team in the state in Buford. North Hall is always tough and will also be very good,” he added.
With this new plan, the GHSA’s 433-member schools will be divided into six classifications of 65-70 schools each with the exception of Class A. Class A will have around 90-95 schools because there are several schools that do not play football.
The 4/8 plan, which was voted down, would have divided the state into four classifications of upper and lower tiers, creating eight divisions for state playoffs and eight state champions. The plan was originally brought to the executive committee in March, but a vote was tabled until last Tuesday.
The six-classification plan divides schools in percentages of 15-15-16-16-16-22, from classifications AAAAAA to A.
Some coaches in the area are complaining about travel and the lack of local rivalries. Because of travel and unfamiliarity with new region teams, it is feared that fans won’t travel to games and ticket sales will decline. Most other sports rely on football ticket sales to drive their programs.
“I don’t think our gate will be affected that much,” Lee said. “We will still play schools that are close enough to us that we feel will bring good crowds.”
Head Tiger boys basketball coach Thad Burgess said about the six classifications: “It will be really difficult for our boys program. We have to step up and meet the challenge. Buford played in the state AA championship game this year. East Hall is always tough. West Hall was ranked number three in AAA this past season. North Hall was in the final four in AAA two years ago. The only team that we will be familiar with is Fannin County. It will be a major challenge for us but we have been in with East Hall and Buford before and we will have to do our best.”
The new plan is set to take effect in August 2012.