GHSA rules: Northside staying in AAAA

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

The Georgia High School

Association met Wednesday to try to resolve the problem of what to do with Northside, Warner Robins, ending the meeting with a decision: The Eagles are staying in Class AAAA.

The decision affects two area schools, Lee County and Bainbridge, both of which will have a tougher road to travel with Northside now not only a part of its classification, but also its region (1-AAAA).

Northside was the Class AAAAA state runner-up in football last season, but when the GHSA reclassified schools in mid-January the projected enrollment numbers for the school were below 1,900 -- the cutoff for AAAAA schools. Those numbers were based on projections made by the Houston County Board of Education in October.

But on Jan. 28 the board submitted new projected enrollment figures based on rezoning that would give Northside an enrollment of more than 1,900 students.

That's when the confusion and debate began of what to do with Northside. So the GHSA had a special meeting Wednesday, and took no action to move either Northside or Warner Robins High back to AAAAA, because -- according to GHSA executive director Ralph Swearngin -- the organization's bylaws prevent any change.

Warner Robins High and Northside were both affected by the opening of Veterans High, which had to be rezoned in January. That's why the projected enrollment numbers changed.

Both schools have been reclassified to compete in

Region 1-AAAA, the same region Lee County and Bainbridge compete.

Americus-Sumter was in 1-AAAA, but is dropping to AAA next season.

There were 67 schools in the state affected by projected enrollments, including Warner Robins High, which also drops from AAAAA to Region 1-AAAA.

But the most debated issue was Northside, because of the conflicting enrollment projections.

"I don't quite understand their rationale,'' Lee County football coach Dean Fabrizio said. "But it's their decision, and we'll abide by it. We're going to line up and play.''

They may have to play Northside, but they may not have to compete for a region title.

"These are projections,'' Swearngin said. "Our bylaws say if you miss the projection by 20 percent or more you have to play a non-region schedule. If you miss the projections by 20 percent or less there is no penalty.''

Swearngin said the original projection in October was 1,820 students, and the rezoned projection Jan. 28 was 1,960 -- "about 9 percent over,'' Swearngin said.

A 20 percent increase would be an increase of 364 students from the original 1,820 projection, or an enrollment of 2,184. Swearngin said if that's the case, Northside would play games on its schedule, but would not be allowed to compete for a region title or postseason play.

"That's a possibility,'' said Bainbridge football coach Ed Pilcher, who attended the meeting. "We're going to wait and see what happens. I'm not totally disappointed. I think in the long run some good will come out of this. I believe 90 percent of the committee knows a mistake had been made, although unintentional. But because of the bylaws we couldn't correct it."

Pilcher said he can live with the decision, but hopes a change in the bylaws take place so this won't be able to happen again.

"I believe this will be addressed (in the future) and we will correct the bylaws and go from there,'' Pilcher said.