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Letter: While Tennessee, Alabama seek competitive balance, GHSA stalls
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North Hall's Lena Strickland (10) and Grace Hollifield (12) nearly collide as they dive for the ball during the Class 3A state semifinal game between North Hall and Pace Academy in Gainesville, on Oct. 25, 2017. - photo by David Barnes

The 2016 Georgia High School Association reclassification was supposed to be about improving competitive balance in state athletics. Wrong! It was about moving Class 2A private schools out of 2A. 

Since reclassification, the eight Atlanta-area private schools in classifications 3A and 4A, representing 7 percent of all schools, won 40 percent of all state titles (23 of 58 competitions). Region 7-4A Marist and Blessed Trinity won 11 of these.

Beginning in 2018, Region 7-4A will consist of Blessed Trinity, Chestatee, Denmark, Flowery Branch, Marist, West Hall and White County. 

Denmark is a new school. Since 2000, Marist and Blessed Trinity have a combined 128 state championships; 80 of these are in 4A, 77 won by Marist. Since 2000, Chestatee, Flowery Branch, West Hall and White County have a combined six state championships, of which one was in 4A.

Georgia high school athletes and communities cannot count on GHSA to improve competitive balance. So what has the Georgia legislature been doing? 

This past fall in Class A, four public schools made the state volleyball playoffs. One of these was Gordon Lee High School in Chickamauga. Unfortunately, Gordon Lee lost to a private school, not unusual since no Class A public school has won a state championship in volleyball. Since 2012, two of the Class A sports not split into both public and private playoffs are soccer and volleyball. GHSA recently decided to split the playoffs for these two sports.

The first legislative session after Gordon Lee lost to a private school in the volleyball playoffs, Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, sponsored Senate Bill 456, which requires GHSA to split all sports in Class A. Gordon Lee is in Sen. Jeff Mullis’ district. High school sports reporter Todd Holcomb was the first to report this. During the 2016 reclassification, Gordon Lee moved down from Class 2A to 1A. (Senate Bill 456 can be found here).

Last Nov. 30, the Alabama High School Athletic Association approved a new competitive balance plan that only affects private schools. This plan is based on a private school’s success rate, by sport, in state tournaments and was adopted by a bipartisan group of public and private school administrators. If a private school has significant success in state tournaments during a three-year period by sport, that school will move up a classification in that sport.

On March 14, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association voted to split public and private schools into separate divisions. This applies to all competitions. Twenty-one years ago, the TSSAA took the first step by placing private schools into a separate division if these schools offered need-based financial aid. The March proposal to completely split public and private schools was submitted by Memphis private school Harding Academy. The proposal passed unanimously and will go into effect during the 2019-2020 school year.

For Georgia 3A and 4A public schools in 2018, it will be wash, rinse and repeat.

Alan Henderson


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