Georgia reclassification includes innovative policy to move up private schools

Georgia reclassification includes innovative policy to move up private schools

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Georgia reclassification includes innovative policy to move up private schools

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Colquitt County won its first state title since 1994 in 2014. In 2016 it could become part of the Big 44 classification (Photo: Twitter)

Colquitt County won its first state title since 1994 in 2014. In 2016 it could become part of the Big 44 classification (Photo: Twitter)

It’s an enduring problem for a number of state athletic associations: How do you accurately classify top private schools, which are able to attract athletes with scholarships and put together competitive athletic programs that far outstrip their relatively limited population?

Now Georgia may have an answer. As part of a reclassification of the state’s top division, the Georgia High School Association announced on Monday that it was adding a seventh class — called the Big 44 — which will include schools in the top 10 percent of school enrollment as well as a select group of private and parochial schools. The part of the reclassification project that specifically pertains to private schools calls for any institution that has more than three percent of its student population attending from outside the school’s county of origin to be moved up one class. The rule could also affect some city schools which have found creative ways to attract players from out of their designated catchment area.

“There’s the perception that certain groups of schools have an advantage because they bring in people from outside their attendance area or county,” GHSA executive director Gary Phillips told Georgia High School Football Daily. “Constantly we heard we had to level the playing field.”

The Big 44 may go some way toward achieving that end, though it hasn’t been met with universal praise. As one might expect, there are still doubters, particularly some who question whether the regulations aimed at forcing up schools that benefit from attracting players will actually target the right schools.

“If they’d done something about counting kids out of the district zone instead out of the county, it would’ve been a lot better,” Peach County football coach Chad Campbell told Georgia High School Football Daily. “I just don’t think they did anything to help the situation out with that.”

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