Six of the eight Muscogee County public schools will be playing in a higher classification for the next two academic years beginning in August 2014.
Northside, Columbus, Shaw and Carver will play up in Class AAAAA with Hardaway. Meanwhile, Jordan and Spencer will move up to Class AA to play with Kendrick.
Muscogee County School District system-wide athletics director Gary Gibson made the announcement Monday morning.
The Georgia High School Association goes through a reclassification process every two years. It uses student counts at each school to place them in one of six classifications. This is done to promote competitive balance.
The GHSA allows schools to play in a higher classification, and it's usually done to cut down on travel, help with ticket sales and maintain rivalries.
"Looking at the budget, and looking at some parts that didn't have anything to do with athletics, it just keeps getting tighter every year," Gibson said. "We have to take a closer and harder look at everything in more detail."
Gibson said the district would save $150,000 or more in athletic-team travel expenses per year. The school district has spent as much as $400,000 per year on athletic-team travel the past two years.
Gibson said the school district estimates that the three smaller schools will see an increase of about $5,000 a year in ticket sales, while the five larger ones will see an increase of about $15,000 per year.
Muscogee County schools routinely had its teams play in a higher classification until four years ago when then-superintendent Susan Andrews made the decision to allow schools to play where they naturally fell in the reclassification process.
For the past two years, that meant Hardaway and Northside were in Class AAAAA, Columbus and Shaw in AAAA, Carver in AAA and Kendrick, Spencer and Jordan in AA.
When the GHSA did its reclassification for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 academic years two weeks ago, Hardaway was alone in AAAAA, Northside, Columbus, Shaw and Carver were in AAAA, Kendrick was alone in AAA, and Jordan and Spencer were in AA.
Carver's football program may be affected by the decision most of all. The Tigers won a Class AA state championship in 2007 and has advanced to the state quarterfinals eight straight years either in AA or AAA.
The Tigers will face a huge step up in competition if they make the postseason.
"I can't say because I don't know who all will move up or what will happen for region play," Carver coach Joe Kegler said about the competition. "I just know we'll play every week and continue to put our best guys on the field and give our best effort every game and let the rest take care of itself.
"They have more people in the school, but at the end of the day they only have 11 people on the field just like us. We just have to go out and stay competitive like we have been."
The next step in the process is the GHSA will meet this morning to place teams into regions. There are usually eight regions per classification, but there can be more.
For Kendrick, Jordan and Spencer, there seems to be two possibilities. They could be placed in a region that goes north with Callaway and Central-Carrollton, or they could be placed in a region that goes east with Peach County and four Macon schools -- Central, Southwest, Westside and Rutland.
For Hardaway, Northside, Columbus, Shaw and Carver, they could go in a region with Harris County, LaGrange -- which also moved up from AAAA -- Bainbridge and Thomas County Central, or they could also go east with schools such as Warner Robins, Northside-Warner Robins, Houston County and Jones County.
Schools will have until Friday to ask for a lateral transfer to another region. Those appeals will be heard Dec. 17. The reclassification is expected to be ratified Jan. 14, 2014.
Kevin Price, 706-320-4493. Follow Kevin on Twitter @lesports and on Facebook at facebook.com/ledgerenquirersports.