Football finals switched back to host schools

Slightly more than six months ago, the Georgia High School Association's Executive Committee voted to move the 2006 state football championship games to neutral sites.

On Monday, the vote went the other way.

After a new proposal was brought forth by the Football Committee, the Executive Committee voted to hold the state finals at one of the participating schools' stadiums, as has been the case in the past. Suggestions were made to hold the championship games at the Georgia Dome or other neutral sites that were geographically between the two participating football teams, but neither won out.

In attempt to make the game more neutral, the GHSA now will take over the administration of the state championship game and will provide announcers, ticket takers and other staff. Also the home team won't be allowed to sell any spirit wear. Instead the GHSA will sell its merchandise.

So it's a neutral game in some regards, but it still will be played at a participating school's stadium.

"Personally I don't think (the new ruling makes the game neutral)," said Brookwood athletic director Dave Hunter, a member of the Executive Committee and a proponent of neutral site finals. "I don't think anybody in their right mind can say that's neutral because one team has to travel, pay for travel, not sleep in their own beds.

"But that's my personal view. From a team standpoint, I'm a team player. We'll be fine with. If that's what the majority wants, that's what we'll do."

The higher seed will host this year's state championship game unless the two seeds are equal, which isn't a change from the past. But a new addition is that a coin flip will determine the host, a change from the past when a predetermined "H" in the bracket settled matchups of equal seeding. The same scenario is true for this season's quarterfinals if two teams have the same seed.

"We've obviously done it both ways, we've played (state championship games) away and at home," Buford head coach Jess Simpson said. "It sure is a neat atmosphere both ways. Now for anyone to say there's not a home-field advantage is crazy. But that's high school football. That's the way we've always done it. And it's great for the community that gets to host."

The GHSA's top committee also set its dates for football to start this year. Aug. 1 is an administrative day and teams can begin in shorts and pads on Aug. 2. Full-pad workouts can begin Aug. 7.

Some other decisions made by the GHSA on Monday were:

•The starting date for the 2006-2007 basketball season was moved back from Nov. 20 to Nov. 18, to allow Thanksgiving tournaments an earlier start.

•Baseball teams now are allowed one preseason game with unlimited substitutions.