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GHSA to vote on 4/8 plan in May
Plan has been revised in time since original vote was tabled in March
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A decision on whether to significantly alter the GHSA's current five-classification format will be made on May 10, when the executive committee will hold a meeting to vote on what is known as the 4/8 plan.

The meeting will be held at 10 a.m. at the Marriot Macon City Center.

The 4/8 plan proposes dividing schools into four classifications that split to eight for the playoffs, producing eight state champions. Each classification's eight regions would contain upper and lower tiers based on the school's student population. Only games played within a school's given tier would count towards its postseason eligibility.

In March, the reclassification committee voted 7-5 in favor of the 4/8 plan over another plan that would divide schools into six classifications.

The 4/8 plan was then to be voted on by the executive committee's 50 members, but because it was only at the conceptual stage, coupled with divide amongst committee members as to if the plan would work, the vote was tabled in March.

Since then, reclassification committee chairman Earl Etheridge, architect of the 4/8 plan, has done some fine tuning to clarify and resolve initial issues with the plan.

For example, some region tiers in the 4/8 plan only have three schools, while others have as many as 12. At the time of the last executive committee meeting, the 4/8 proposal offered no answer to how playoff spots would be distributed to each tier, a concern given the disparity in the number of schools in each tier.

Etheridge has since addressed the issue by allotting playoff spots to each region tier based on size. The smallest region tiers would cede playoff spots to larger ones.

Etheridge also re-drew the region and classification alignments based on updated FTE numbers and input from coaches.

"I think this is much better than what we initially had," Etheridge said. "We've spelled this out and broke it down and I think it's fair. If you have a lot of people living in one area, that creates a large tier. Areas where not a lot of people live creates small tiers. But you can't help the distance between my place and your place.

"In Gwinnett County, you can drive 35 miles and pass 18 schools. With this plan, if you have places with or without large numbers, you're still rewarded for having a greater number of schools in your tier."

Despite the 4/8 plan's evolution, some in the executive committee - and even the reclassification committee - are still staunchly against it.

"I am philosophically opposed," said reclassification committee member Dave Hunter, who designed the six-classification plan. "The same questions have not been answered. The plan does take playoff spots from smaller tiers and gives them to larger tiers, but which teams get that spot? Do they have to travel to play?"

Hunter also said he's been told that radio and TV crews that broadcast the state playoffs won't be able to cover eight different state championship games, and, in the case of sports that have boys and girls teams, 16 different championships.

"Guess which schools get left out (of broadcast privileges)," Hunter said. "It's a numbers game."

Buford athletic director Dexter Wood, a member of the executive committee, likes the current 4/8 plan because it has the Wolves competing with schools to the north, as opposed to traveling south and into the perimeter. The current proposal would allow Buford to reconnect with historic rivals, including North Hall, West Hall, East Hall, Jefferson and Stephens County, among others.

However, Wood's role with the executive committee serves a greater purpose than just Buford.

"I feel obligated to vote how my region (6-AA) has elected me to do," Wood said. "As of now, 6-AA is, for the most part, still opposed to the 4/8 plan. If that sentiment continues, I will not support the plan from that perspective."

"But from Buford's standpoint, I'm pleased with the plan."

GHSA executive director Dr. Ralph Swearngin said if the 4/8 plan is not passed by the executive committee, there is still time to come up with another plan. No bylaws will be changed from the current constitution until October, when FTE counts for the 2011-2012 school year become available. The executive committee will meet before then in August, which Swearngin said is the final deadline for the sides to come together on an agreement.

"If we absolutely have to, we'll wait until August," Swearngin said. "But I think everyone wants this resolved sooner than later."

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