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GHSA ready to take up power ratings system for Class A
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Coaches concerned about new power ratings system.

At least one thing is certain about the Georgia High School Association’s switch to a Class A power ratings system: There’s going to be a new top-10 list to follow.

Move over polls, the ratings system is about to be a must read for coaches and fans every time it comes out, because it’s those ratings that will determine if, and in what position, each team is seeded in the state tournament for baseball, softball, basketball and football starting with the 2012-2013 school year.

“Right now teams are looking at top-10 polls,” said Towns County girls basketball coach Jim Melton. “Now they’re going to have to have a power rating poll almost daily.

“All season long you’re going to be able to keep up with who you’re going to be paired with at the tournament.”

At least that’s the way it’s done in Louisiana, the state whose power ratings system the GHSA used in part when they adopted the current plan at the March executive committee meeting.

While Louisiana uses the system throughout all classifications, in Georgia it will be limited to the smallest classification as a means to separate public and private schools for the split state tournaments, yet another change for the upcoming school year that was adopted during the GHSA’s implementation of the new realignment.

The split was enacted at the January executive committee meeting to ratify the new realignment after about 30 Class A public schools, mainly in South Georgia, planned to secede from the GHSA if something was not done about what they saw as the athletic inequity between public and private schools.

The two Class-A public schools in this area, Towns County and Commerce, were not a part of the group that had planned to split. Now the coaches at the two schools, the only two public schools in Region 8-A, are trying to figure out just how the split and the new ratings system is going to work.

“We play so many private schools,” said Commerce football coach Marvin Justice. “So in Commerce, we’re in a unique situation.”

What has Justice concerned is that the Tigers will be playing six of their 10 games against private schools next season, including all region games. And yet come playoff time, Commerce would go to the public school bracket.

The Tigers coach said he had hoped the GHSA would’ve realigned the regions so as to create regions of all public and all private schools to make it simpler. But he is, nonetheless, ready to play the new game.

“We’re just going to have to win as many games as we can,” he said. “Anytime you do something for the first time your going to have some problems, that’s why it’s called a rough draft.”

Most area coaches agree that a wait and see approach is best before determining once and for all if the new system will be beneficial.

Still, Melton admitted that, had the rating been in place earlier, Towns County would have benefited.

“Three of the last five years, we’ve been knocked out of the state tournament by the eventual state champion,” he said. “And those were all private schools.”

Melton said he agreed in part with the decision to split public and private to create an even playing field, but he still wants to maintain the cohesion of the mixed region he is in.

In the regular season, teams will still play a regular region schedule. And, as before, the region champion will get an automatic berth to the postseason.

The power ratings, which vary from sport to sport but come down to getting credit for wins as well as playing quality opponents, determine the wildcard teams in both the public and private 16-team brackets as well as the seeding for the region winners, which could vary in number by bracket.

So, depending on how often the ratings are updated, teams could very well get a game-by-game update of whether or not they are in playoff position. In Louisiana, the advent of the ratings system has spawned a website which updates ratings in all of the participating sports daily. The official Louisiana High School Athletic Association ratings come out once a week in some cases, and at least once every two weeks.

(New Orleans) Times Picayune high school sports writer Joseph Halm has dealt with both the ratings system in Louisiana and without it in Arkansas.

“It’s worked pretty well,” he said. “Of the two options, it’s better than non-power ratings.

“I don’t think Louisiana would ever go back.”

Freddie Hallman, the football coach at Holy Savior Menard (Alexandria, La.) said the change has been good for the state.

“There’s no doubt, I think it does put the top 32 teams in the playoffs,” he said. “For the most part, I think it’s the best way to go.”

Hallman did say that, in football, which gets credit for playing teams in a higher classification, most every school tries to play up as much as possible out of district.

“We try to play above any way we can if possible,” he added. “It’s always better to play up.”

The ratings have also been a source of interest and excitement for the fans, he said.

“Every week its posted and definitely the fans are excited to keep up with it,” Hallman said. “It’s pretty exciting and it definitely keeps you on your toes.”

Because of how much emphasis the ratings put on strength of schedule, players, coaches and fans are rooting nearly as much for their team’s opponents to win as for their team.

Louisiana, which put the ratings system in place for football in 1999 and many other sports in the following years, did it primarily to keep undeserving football teams, that may have still finished second in a down region, out of the playoffs.

While Hallman has seen a 3-7 team from his region make the playoffs based on strength of schedule, he said that for the most part the system has worked as expected.

Georgia’s implementation will, of course, be different for a variety of reasons, but it’s on its way.

For many of the GHSA schools it’s below the radar, but it will change the face of Class A for the foreseeable future, which is why the coaches have been burning up phone minutes discussing with one another. Melton has been talking with Lakeview boys basketball coach Seth Vining, who faces a much different path to a state title than the public schools.

“It’s going to make winning a region tournament definitely more important than it has been,” said Vining, whose squad finished second to Athens Christian in 8-A this season.

“But until we go through it for a few seasons, it’s hard to know what to expect.”

As the GHSA said when Melton asked about the new format, ‘we’re headed into uncharted waters.’

Still, the teams will still be playing the same game, and a win still speaks the loudest, regardless of how the opponent is rated. While the new ratings system may determine the wildcard teams and the seedings, beyond that the games will still be settled on the field, just how Justice said he wanted.

And the Commerce coach, for one, would be just as happy to win a state title, even if its just against the other Class A public schools.

“I think there’s 41 or 40 public schools that play football in Class A,” he said. “So best out of 40’s still pretty good.”

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