The new-look Region 8-AAAA may be subdivided, but its member schools won’t play a subdivided football schedule.
By maintaining 11 teams — 8-AAAA lost Monroe Area but picked up Flowery Branch — the region will again play a straight-region football schedule as it has the past two seasons.
The region approved that move Wednesday with a 6-5 vote.
Madison County head football coach Randell Owens cast one of the “no” votes and was perhaps the most vocal opponent of a straight-region schedule configuration.
Owens favors a subdivided schedule in which teams would play schools in their subregion and only a few from the other side of the region. That would leave schools the freedom to schedule two or three non-region, revenue-generating games against more localized opponents.
“I argued the point that we were adamantly against it for the reasons of gate,” Owens said. “If we play local, traditional rivalries, we’re going to make two-thirds, about 60 percent, more at the gate.”
In fact, Owens said Madison County would make an average of about $14,000 in ticket sales in football games against nearby opponents Franklin County or Elbert County.
“That’s money that not only funds football, but non-revenue sports where we don’t have gate,” he said.
He estimates the school only generates between $3,500 to $6,500 when playing any of the region schools out of Rockdale County.
Plus, traveling to far-off schools like Rockdale County, Heritage and Salem drive up travel costs, Owens said.
Owens also argued that the GHSA handbook mandates subdivision for regions with 10 or more teams, but was told that didn’t necessarily require a subdivided schedule.
“The implication there (in the bylaws) is that you’re going to play a subdivided schedule,” Owens said. “If it was an English paper, you would have gotten an F.”
Habersham Central, Apalachee, Winder-Barrow and Heritage voted with Madison County against the all-region schedule. Loganville, Clarke Central, Cedar Shoals, Rockdale County, Salem and Flowery Branch voted in favor of the all-region schedule.
Owens said he had little hope of swinging enough region votes his way, though the vote was much tighter than he anticipated.
“I knew I was going to lose the argument when I started the argument,” Owens said.
No scheduling is final until mid-January. Schools can still appeal to the GHSA for lateral moves within their classifications.
If Madison County had its wish, it would be out of Class AAAA altogether.
The school petitioned to play down in Class AAA, based on its low enrollment compared to that of other Class AAAA schools.
Madison County was only five students away from Class AAA numbers and projected that its enrollment had actually dipped from the number the GHSA used when determining reclassification.
The school, however, lost that appeal and is locked into Class AAAA for the next two years.
“Bottom line, I feel like a guy who just lost about three ball games here in the last three weeks,” Owens said.
Madison County could have been locked into Class AAAA for four years, but Owens said the GHSA will likely scrap its initial plans to move to a four-year cycle.
“There is a strong movement to change it back to a two-year reclassification period, and I believe that it will pass,” Owens said in an email.