When the GHSA set the region alignments for 2014-15, many asked why Tucker and Lakeside of DeKalb County weren’t put in a region with their nearest Class AAAAAA neighbors, which are Gwinnett County schools such as Parkview and Berkmar.
The answer is that the GHSA prefers to honor county boundaries to maintain what it believes are natural rivalries, which lead to more attendance and revenue. As a result, Gwinnett County’s 17 Class AAAAAA schools will play in two Gwinnett-only regions again in 2014-15 and 2015-16.
That makes sense, but while it benefits Gwinnett, it makes travel longer for schools outside of Gwinnett.
Consider Tucker’s point of view. Tucker is 7.5 miles from Parkview. Both have football programs with some history. They've never played each other and were not placed in the same region. Tucker is 7.6 miles from Berkmar. Both have state-contending basketball teams. But Tucker is on the wrong side of the railroad track and was placed in a region with schools from Rockdale, Newton and Clayton counties. Tucker’s average round-trip region contest for the next two academic years will be 60 miles.
Is there a better way?
If the goal were strictly to minimize total travel for all 65 schools in AAAAAA, then yes. That’s the conclusion of Loren Maxwell, the math and computer whiz who does the Maxwell Ratings. Maxwell came up with computer solution designed to produce the fewest total miles statewide for region contents in all sports. His computer-generated proposal would shave 1,413 miles of travel, or roughly 22 miles per team, over two football seasons.
And that’s just one sport. The mileage saved would be twice that for basketball because region schedules typically are a double round-robin. And the double those miles again if the boys and girls teams don’t travel together. And then multiply further to account for softball and wrestling and tennis and baseball and the rest.
The AAAAAA school that would benefit the most in a model that minimizes travel statewide would be Tucker. Tucker’s average round trip next football season will be 60.85 miles. Tucker’s average trip would be 20.36 miles if county boundaries were ignored and travel was minimized for the classification as a whole.
Is there a downside? Yes, if you’re in Gwinnett County. Maxwell’s spreads Gwinnett’s 17 schools over four regions. The average round-trip travel for Gwinnett teams would rise to 28.7 from 21.9. But the average round-trip travel for schools in regions 2 and 3 – basically metro Atlanta schools not in Gwinnett, North Fulton or North/West Cobb - would drop to 44.6 from 54.0.
In the chart below, ADD = the average driving distance round-trip to each region rival. Region 1-AAAAAA remains the same.