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Athletics: Transfer requests could alter local schools new regions
Pinecrest asks GHSA for move to Region 6-A
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Forsyth County News

While the proposed region that includes the Class 6A Forsyth County schools appears mostly set, Pinecrest Academy and Forsyth Central’s alignments could look very different by Monday afternoon.

The Georgia High School Association will hear appeals Monday morning in Thomaston from teams wishing to transfer to a different region. Pinecrest officials will ask to play in Region 6-A instead of Region 8, and Central’s Region 7-AAAAA could see movement by as many as three schools.

Region 6-AAAAAA, which includes North Forsyth, South Forsyth, West Forsyth and Lambert in one subregion, looks stable after its athletic directors and coaches met last week.

Habersham Central is appealing to join the region after being placed in Region 7 with a host of Gwinnett County schools, but its chances of approval appear slim, according to one Forsyth athletic director.

“The reclassification committee really has to be sold on a case to make a lateral move,” said North athletic director Nathan Turner, also a member of the GHSA’s executive committee.

“There has to be a bona fide need or request for them to move you. Habersham Central and whoever else is appealing would really have to sell their case.”

So, too, will Pinecrest.

The Class A private school wishes to move from a 13-team region to one that currently has 16 schools. Athletic director Andres Montana initially expressed enthusiasm about the school’s proposed grouping, but an email from Pinecrest communications coordinator Vivian Heard on Friday cited “the concern for travel, increased costs, diminished gate receipts, loss of natural rivalries, and a negative impact on academics and families” as reasons for the decision to appeal.

The schools placed in Region 8 reside in 10 different counties and are an average distance of 54.8 miles from Pinecrest. The Region 6 schools, from eight different counties, average a distance of 58 miles from the southern Cumming campus.

Four Region 6 schools are within 25 miles of Pinecrest, while two in Region 8 lie within that distance.

Proposed Region 6, subregion B schools Mount Pisgah, St. Francis, Fellowship Christian and King’s Ridge Christian all were in Region 5 with Pinecrest during the previous classification cycle, Pinecrest’s first in the GHSA.

Whether or not Pinecrest’s appeal is accepted, Region 6 would be the second-largest alignment behind Region 5, which currently has 18 teams.

The movement by many Class A public schools to possibly form their own organization could play a role in where Pinecrest ends up as well.

Thirty-three public schools, the majority of which were placed in Class A for the next cycle, attended a Monday meeting in Wilcox County and are considering pulling out of the GHSA.

Most attendees were from southern Georgia schools. Proposed Region 6 member Gordon Lee sent representatives. The other public schools placed in Regions 8-A (Commerce, Towns County, Woody Gap) and 6-A (Trion) did not.

GHSA executive director Ralph Swearngin has said the reclassification committee will hear appeals Monday as scheduled, and the executive committee will meet Jan. 10 to ratify the new classifications and regions. There are no current plans to address the public schools’ possible defection.

Central’s situation is tenuous, too. According to athletic director Mike Woodard, officials from three different schools want to transfer into, out of or within Region 7-AAAAA:

• International charter school Riverwood, located in Atlanta, is appealing to move out of the region.

• North Atlanta, a member of the Atlanta Public Schools system, is appealing to join Region 7-AAAAA after being placed in Region 6.

• New Fulton County school Cambridge is requesting a move from Subregion B to Subregion A with Central, Creekview, North Springs, Northview and Sequoyah.

Region 7-AAAAA’s athletic directors and administrators met Thursday and made some preliminary decisions that the appeals process could render meaningless.

“We may be going back to the drawing board,” Woodard said. “By lunchtime Monday, we should know a lot more.”

One tentative decision made last week was for the region to play a subdivided football schedule. In the current 11-team setup, that would make room for three non-region games.

Teams in 6-AAAAAA will have also have three non-region contests available if decisions made during that region’s meeting last week are upheld. Coaches and administrators desire a full region football schedule for the eight-team grouping, North athletic director Turner said.

GHSA rules require football teams to play at least 70 percent (50 percent for all other sports) of their games against region opponents, making full region schedules the ideal choice for alignments like Region 6-AAAAAA that include eight or fewer schools.

Nothing can be finalized, however, until Jan. 11, the day after the GHSA is set to ratify the new regions.

“We’re all working on handshake agreements right now,” Turner said. “Everything we’ve done so far is preliminary, nothing binding. … We’ll take a break next week for the holidays, and when we reconvene it will be wide open with plenty of work to do.”

That will include solidifying non-region football games. Coaches have been contacting each other since the regions were first announced, but they can't sign scheduling contracts until Jan. 11, either.

Follow Phil Ervin on Twitter @PhilErvin_FCN