GHSA shakes up classifications around state

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

ALBANY -- Then there were six.

The Georgia High School Association finally unveiled the results of reshaping its 440 member schools from five classifications into six Monday.

The plan appears to be tailor-made for the Atlanta area, which has most of the 65 schools in the new AAAAAA classification. There are 71 schools in AAAAA, and 71 in AAAA, and 70 in AAA. There are only 66 in AA and 97, including 71 that play football, in Class A.

But the new alignment definitely affects Southwest Georgia, where travel is a major concern and where some natural region rivalries may be eliminated.

No one is sure what the new region alignments will be for another two weeks, and the new classifications won't go into effect until next year. The GHSA delayed the announcement for a week, and now schools have two weeks to decide if they want to play up in a larger classification.

No school in Southwest Georgia is affected more than Dougherty High or Worth County High, which are both deliberating what to do.

Dougherty, which has played in Class AAA for the last four years with a Class AA enrollment, and Worth -- both of which stayed at AAA in the new classification -- now have to decide whether to play in the larger classification, or face a new region with possibly more travel in the new alignment.

"We won't know anything for 14 days,'' said Johnny Seabrooks, the Director of Athletics for Dougherty County schools. "The schools have 14 days to file an appeal to stay (in classification) with the concept of travel being one of the factors.''

Seabrooks said he wasn't sure if Dougherty would stay in the same region with city rivals Monroe and Westover, which both moved from Class AAA to Class AAAA under the new alignment, or would opt to compete in the new Class AAA, which will be made up mostly of schools that are currently competing in Class AA this year.

"I talked to Dougherty (on Monday),'' Seabrooks said. "And (Dougherty AD Donald Poole) said they are planning to meet with all of their coaches to make a decision.''

Schools which appeal and request to play in a larger classification have to notify the GHSA by Dec. 5.

Worth County High is in the same position as Dougherty. The Rams, who have been playing in Region 1-AAA with Monroe, Westover, Dougherty, Crisp County, Americus-Sumter and Cairo, did not move to Class AAAA, and were put in Class AAA under the new alignment.

"We're going to meet and see what advantages (there are for) us,'' said Worth County AD Russell Beard, who is concerned about a new Region 1-AAA that could possibly consist of Worth, Dougherty, Albany High and three schools from Columbus. "We would have to drive 110 miles to Columbus twice a year one year and once a year the next year in football, but we would be driving to Columbus four times a year in basketball, baseball and softball. You have to look at all the sports. And we've built rivalries with Monroe, Westover and Cairo, so when they come to our place they bring fans. We don't know if Columbus would bring fans or not.''

Albany High, which is in Region 1-AA, will be in Class AAA next year and could be in the same region with Dougherty and Worth.

Early County, which was in Class AA, did not move up with Albany High, and if the Bobcats don't appeal to move up to Class AAA, they might be playing in the same region with Pelham, which moved up from Class A to Class AA.

Those are the schools -- Dougherty, Worth County, Early County and Pelham -- which were affected by the new classifications.

Lee County and Bainbridge simply move from Class AAAA to Class AAAAA, and Region 1-A stayed untouched, except for Pelham. Mitchell County, Baker County, Terrell County, Miller County, Seminole County, Randolph-Clay and Baconton Charter all remained in Class A.