1 WHY A SEVEN-CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM? For the second time in four years, the GHSA has
increased the number of classifications. Georgia moved
up to six classifications in 2012 and implemented a split
in Class A in order to create separate championships for
public and private schools. Before the move to six classes,
the state had alternated between four and five divisions
since adopting statewide playoffs in 1948, staying at five
classes between 2000 and 2012. First pitched as the “Big
44” plan last year, the state’s top classification ultimately
shook out at 48 teams.
Proponents of the new system say this will make for tighter
competition across the state, but especially among teams
in the highest classification. Critics maintain the increased
focus on the 48 biggest schools — all but four of which are
located in Metro Atlanta — only deepens the rift between
Atlanta and the middle and southern parts of the state, as
well as the schools classified for 6A and below.
2 WHAT DOES THE HIGHEST CLASSIFICATION LOOK LIKE, AND WHO’S IN IT?
Mill Creek (full-time enrollment of 3,998) is the biggest
school in the Big 48, and Westlake ( 2,092) is the smallest.
The new highest class moves the cutoff up from 1,800 to
nearly 2,100, reducing it from 64 schools. Of the 48 schools
in 7A, 20 had 2015 enrollments between 2,092 and 2,500;
22 had enrollments between 2,500 and 3,000; and six
outliers, all in Gwinnett County, were over 3,000 students.
Gwinnett provides 7A with 17 schools, followed by Cobb
with 10. All five Forsyth schools made the cut, and only three
are from Fulton.
The state’s sole four-team region—1-AAAAAAA—features
the only top-classification teams outside of Metro Atlanta:
Camden County, Colquitt
County, Lowndes and Tift
No schools are playing up
in Class 7A, and no teams
slotted for Class 7A moved
down. In that way, the Big
48 is the only “pure” classification in the state.
3 WHICH PROGRAMS
AVOIDED THE TOP
CLASS FOR MORE
Of the 21 programs moving from the old 6A to the
new 6A, five are from North
Fulton (Alpharetta, Centennial, Chattahoochee, Johns
Creek, Northview), four
are from Cobb (Harrison,
Osborne, Pope, South Cobb)
and three were from the
Augusta or Savannah area
(Effingham County, Evans,
For programs like Tucker,
one of the smallest Class
6A schools the last two
years and now slotted for
the second-highest class,
the new system could mean the difference between winning
a game in the playoffs and winning a title.
“You run up against such a big disparity in the size of the
4 WHAT IS THE IMPACT ON BIG-TIME FOOTBALL IN MIDDLE AND SOUTH GEORGIA?
schools,” said Tucker head coach Bryan Lamar. “We have
skill [players], but what really hurts us is on the line of scrim-
mage. We don’t have the numbers.”
In two 6A playoff losses, to McEachern in the 2014
quarterfinals and to South Forsyth in last year’s second
round, the Tigers gave up roughly 500 and 1,100 in enroll-
ment numbers, respectively.
As recently as 2009, Region 1-AAAAA consisted of eight
Middle and South Georgia powers, making up one of the
strongest leagues in the country. Now, those same eight
schools are scattered about the top three classifications.
Longtime broadcaster Tommy Palmer, host of “The
Georgia High School Scoreboard Radio Show,” expressed his
surprise that Valdosta and other programs chose to stay put
but said he understood the challenges of being a tweener in
the top division.
“I had really hoped that there would be more of those
[Middle and South Georgia] schools to jump up into that
larger classification, but they elected not to,” Palmer said.
“And I would assume, size-wise, they didn’t feel like that was
the thing for them to do.
“It’s going to be an adjustment, but that does not mean
I’m not for it.”
On the resulting five-team Region 1-AAAAAA of Coffee,
Houston County, Lee County, Northside-Warner Robins and
Valdosta, Palmer believes it will be “just as brutal as [Region
Last fall, the Georgia High
School Association made
in some ways controversial—
decision to move from six
classifications to seven. Here’s
what it means for the 419 GHSA
football programs in Georgia.
The state’s sole four-team region—
1-AAAAAAA—features the only top-
classification teams outside of Metro
Atlanta: Camden County, Colquitt County,
Lowndes (pictured) and Tift County.
THE NEW SEVEN-
SYSTEM OF THE
BY ALEX EWALT