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GHSA rules roundup

May 01, 2019 - 12:48
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LON sports editor Justin Hubbard discusses a couple of GHSA policies

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    LON sports editor Justin Hubbard


I rarely write about the Georgia High School Association and its policies but, sometimes, I have to make exceptions.

That was true a few weeks ago when I criticized the GHSA for passing an updated bylaw that barred its member coaches and student-athletes from criticizing officials in the press and on social media. I stand by that column.

This week, I was prepared to write an all-positive opinion concerning a recent GHSA development. Then, last weeks’ Morgan County-Redan playoff baseball series unfolded.

Let’s get the negativity out of the way first.

Last Wednesday, Morgan baseball hosted Redan in the first round of the Class AAA state playoffs. I was not present for the doubleheader played that day but I made it to the rubber game the following evening.

What happened Wednesday night was pretty ridiculous.

The two teams played a couple of ultra-competitive games that went down to the wire. Morgan won game one, 12-11, and Redan won game two, 6-5. They were both highly entertaining games, from what I’m told.

However, the issue was the length of those games. Game one, which started at 6 p.m., lasted nearly three and a half hours. And it was played in regulation (seven innings). Game two went to the ninth inning.

By the end of those games, it was after 1 a.m. Redan’s players and coaches had to make an hour-long drive back to Stone Mountain (and then to their homes). Each team’s players and, probably, most of their coaches had to be at school the next day, expected to function as if they hadn’t been at the ballpark for nearly the duration of a work day just hours before. And then they had game three at 6 p.m. Thursday.

I know these situations are not common, but the GHSA needs provisions in place to avoid them. There has to be a way to ensure this doesn’t happen.

The best possible solution is to assign curfews for the games and give umpires the ability to stop games that run late.

The GHSA could assign an 11 p.m. curfew. In this instance, game one would have been over and game two would be in the middle innings, but at least you send everyone home a couple of hours earlier. Game two could then be rejoined in-progress the following day.

There are holes to poke in that suggestion. The bottom line is there has to be a better way to get in all the necessary action. The students and coaches have too much in-school responsibility to allow these situations to arise. Hopefully, the GHSA will work to find a new method for playoff scheduling.

Now, I’ve got to praise the GHSA.

On April 15, we learned that, for Class A, all public schools will now be assigned to their own eight regions and all private schools will get their own eight regions, too. In addition, the current power rating system, which picks and seeds the Class A playoff teams, will be abolished.

These changes will take effect during the 2020-21 school year. Class A includes schools with 525 or fewer students. Greene County High School and Lake Oconee Academy fall under that umbrella in our area.

There is a large disparity between most private schools and most public schools. Look at the final scores from games between them, particularly with more specialized sports outside of football, and you will see a pretty sizeable gap.

The private schools tend to have more resources, deeper pockets and more diverse student bodies. That’s all well and good but, athletically, it usually gives them an unfair advantage over the smaller public schools.

For example, Greene and LOA’s soccer programs are normally pretty strong. During the last two school years, they were held down because their region included the likes of Athens Academy, Aquinas and other private institutions.

This year, the GHSA split up the public and private schools in soccer and we saw our local teams take charge in the region, with LOA’s teams winning the boys and girls titles. The increased parity finally allowed Greene and LOA a fair chance.

Instituting this across all sports will only improve opportunities for our local teams and other public schools.

Many private schools are unhappy because they will now have to travel long distances to play region opponents. I get it. They will get the short end of the stick with this new arrangement.

It’s an imperfect change, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. I sympathize with the private schools that are against the new rules. At the end of the day, this levels the playing field.

Following the split, there’s also going to be an increased playoff field, which will involve more teams and increase parity even more. I’m all for that, too, if for no other reason than I think it’s crazy that LOA’s soccer teams, which received No. 1 seeds, have to go on the road this week – in just the second round of the playoffs – all because the field is so small that they’re facing other 1-seeds already and lost a universal coin flip to determine home field advantage.

And as for the power rating system being tossed? Halle-freakin’-lujah.

This was a questionable system all along. We’ve seen both of our Class A schools get slighted thanks to the ever-evolving minutia of the playoff selection and seeding process. It didn’t really matter how you finished in your region. All the GHSA cared about was how the teams were ranked by this algorithm.

Now, it’s all about the on-field results. That is most certainly a positive development.

The GHSA is not a perfect entity and it will undoubtedly draw my criticism again, but, this time, it got it right.