Statesboro, which was set to be reclassified into AAA, filed the necessary paperwork to play up in the quad-A classification next season Wednesday afternoon.
“There were a number of different factors that went into this decision,” said Statesboro athletic director Dr. Ken LeCain. “We took into account both the ability to compete and succeed in athletics, as well as the possible issues with travel in a new classification.”
The GHSA, which has reclassified teams every two years, recently released official numbers for the new four-year period, which will extend from the fall of 2010 through the spring of 2014. At the beginning of the school year, official enrollment counts were taken at all schools within the state. Using these numbers, the GHSA devised cutoff points for each classification.
With an enrollment count of 1401, Statesboro came in 23 students short of the lowest populated school – Tucker, from the Atlanta area – to be classified as quad-A.
“We knew that it was going to be close this year,” said LeCain. “Our numbers have been steady, but other schools up around Atlanta keep increasing in size. That keeps driving the minimum number for each classification up and it finally passed over us.”
Statesboro was not the only team to be affected by the new alignments. Ware County and Wayne County – both of whom have been rivals of Statesboro in Region 2-AAAA for the past two seasons – were also bumped to triple-A status.
Like Statesboro, Wayne County has appealed to remain in AAAA. LeCain was unaware of any final decision by Ware County and calls to the school were not immediately returned.
The biggest motivator to go along with reclassification was the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. While in quad-A, Statesboro has had one of the lowest enrollment totals. Based on the GHSA official count, Statesboro would have the seventh highest population of any triple-A school. More students provide an opportunity to field deeper teams, but the Blue Devils are confidents that they can get along at any level.
“Having a bigger enrollment gives you advantages in theory, but it doesn’t always hold true,” said LeCain. “We are currently one of the smaller schools in our classification, but we consistently contend for championships in many sports. We have a very good athletics program here and will continue to do so wherever we are competing.”
One of the biggest factors involved with Statesboro’s decision was the possibility of increased travel. With no AAA schools in the immediate area, it is uncertain what region of the state that the Blue Devils would have to travel to in a new classification. A wider spanning map for region play would increase travel expenses and be more taxing for the student-athletes who often travel to and from games on school nights.
With the decisions of Statesboro and Wayne County to stay in quad-A, it is likely that the region alignment of the past two years will stay relatively unchanged. Glynn Academy, Brunswick, Effingham County and South Effingham – the other four members of Region 2-AAAA – are all still classified as quad-A, making it likely that all or most will remain grouped together next year.
“There was more certainty in moving up,” said LeCain. “In triple-A, we saw three possible scenarios in where we could end up being placed and some of them would have had us traveling all over the place. By moving up, we think that our travel situation will be about the same. We might end up having some new teams in the Columbia County schools in with us, but we have a better idea of where all the pieces will end up.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.