At Friday's high school playoff games, talk about region realignment may be just as regular as a look ahead in the bracket for Flowery Branch, Gainesville and Buford fans, the only three local schools still alive in the playoffs. If projections hold true, all three of these programs will be on the move up and competing against a new group of schools in the coming years.
Red Elephants fans are expecting the biggest move in the new six-classification system, which will be announced at the Georgia High School Association classification meeting Tuesday in Thomaston. This time next year, Gainesville may be playing in Class AAAAA, taking it out of a geographically comfortable region and moving into a new region with schools arcing down to Athens and Rockdale County.
Flowery Branch may make the exact same move up to Class AAAAA, which would put it back in the same region with Gainesville, and possible remain mostly in the same pool of schools it currently competes with in Region 8-AAAA.
I don't know yet how fans of those two schools will react to these possible changes.
However, if Buford makes the move up to Class AAA, the reaction would be a little more predictable. It would take the Wolves out of a region largely composed of schools inside the Atlanta perimeter - a travel nightmare during rush hour - and move into a region probably composed of schools mostly in Hall County and Northeast Georgia. It would greatly improve their attendance for a majority of home games. North Hall, West Hall and White County would do a much better job of filling the visiting side of basketball bleachers or football stands at Buford than Therrell or South Atlanta.
The other area school that is proposed to see the biggest change in realignment is Habersham Central. The Raiders could bump up from Class AAAA to the new Class AAAAAA. The Raiders are already used to travel: Their closest region opponent currently is Flowery Branch, about a 45-minute haul. However, moving up to Class AAAAAA would mean half of games would entail a trip to the Atlanta suburbs, probably either Gwinnett or Fulton County. It's hard to make any real rivalries with schools more than an hour away.
Getting exact regions for the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years is probably going to drag out all the way until the spring. Establishing classifications Tuesday is just the first, and probably the easiest, part of the equation. Schools do, however, have 14 days to petition to play at a higher classification, according to the GHSA constitution.
Then it gets down to the nitty gritty. Region alignments are scheduled for this month, as stated in the GHSA constitution. Subdividing regions will be handled on a case-by-case basis, except that those that have 10 or more schools must be subdivided.
Then, as always, there's the appeals process for schools that want a lateral move from one region to another. That's one of the last and most arduous parts of the process.
The committee is scheduled to meet again in December to hear the appeals for a lateral transfer and vote on them.
In early-to-mid January, the full Executive Committee is scheduled convene in Macon to ratify and finalize the reclassification for school years 2012-13 and 2013-14.
When the long process is completed, we will finally know what the landscape of region alignments look like for the next two years. There will definitely be plenty of change for fans to discuss.
Bill Murphy is a sports writer for The Times. He can be reached at email@example.com