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Chris Gay: Softball schedule change another GHSA disaster

Posted: November 1, 2017 - 12:44am

In preparation for playing the Augusta National Golf Club several years ago, a friend of mine and I went out to Applewood Golf Course on its "All-You-Can-Play" Monday. We found out just how much golf we could squeeze in in about six hours.

We played 45 holes that day. The first round was decent. The second round was way better. Then we tried to play one more round. After nine holes, everything hurt - arms, legs, elbows, shoulders. I wanted to take an Icy Hot bath.

I can't imagine what it's like to play softball all day. Imagine starting one morning and then playing again in the early afternoon. Then after a short break, playing again in the evening. Then after all that, having to play one final game with midnight rapidly approaching. Yet, that's just what Evans High School did Friday.

After winning a region championship and then the first two rounds of the Class AAAAAA state softball tournament, the Lady Knights traveled to play in the Elite Eight in Columbus, Ga. Then, they opened with a no-hit loss to Pope. Evans fell into the losers bracket and faced a difficult task. Yet, they won. And then they won again. As they went back to the hotel to get some rest before their night game, the team was informed of a schedule alteration.

The Georgia High School Association informed coach Ricky Beale that if Evans won its night game, it wouldn't play at 10 a.m. Saturday as originally planned. Inclement weather was en route to Columbus, Beale was told. So after the Lady Knights defeated Houston County (an 8 p.m. start), they played their fourth game in a 12-hour span at 10 p.m. Evans played an Allatoona team that had played just one game that day. The Lady Knights ran out of steam, losing 11-3.

Had Evans played the next day at the regularly scheduled time, there's no guarantee it would've won and advanced to the championship. But we'll never know, because the GHSA guessed on the weather - and the GHSA was wrong (again). When Evans coaches and players departed Columbus late Saturday morning, they had to wear sunglasses. In fact, I'm told it never rained in Columbus that day.

So Evans had to play a fourth game that day for nothing. What a bunch of Icy Hot! The GHSA should be ashamed of itself, but then again, the GHSA has plenty to be ashamed of in recent years. It's gotten so bad the Georgia lawmakers proposed earlier this year starting a new high school sports organization. (As far as I know, that didn't come up for a vote during the session. Someone email me - chris.gay@augustachronicle.com - with an update.)

The GHSA is carrying around a basketful of blunders. Remember last year when the organization held its basketball championships in Macon and the free-throw line was found to be at 16 feet instead of 15 feet? And because the goals were out of place, the baseline was incorrect as well. So players were rebounding the ball and then being called for stepping out of bounds. How do you mess that up? That's not the coup de grâce, though.

After pulling all its basketball championships out of Macon for one year, the GHSA announced it is returning four of them to Macon in 2018. Yep, the same place where the court setup was all jacked up. Can't wait to see if kids are shooting free throws from the parking lot in the spring. If they do that, the GHSA will probably charge them an additional $20 for parking.

But wait, there's more. The GHSA has yet to deal with the issue of transfers and recruiting. A little more than a decade ago, a football coach in Richmond County had just defeated Josey. He told me one of the opposing players and one of his players (not at Josey) lived in the same apartment. Within this past year, someone told me three athletes (two boys, one girl) lived together, but they played sports at three different local schools. Now imagine what this issue is like in other areas.

In March, FOX 5 Atlanta reported on Kurt Taylor, now a freshman running back at Michigan, who played his first three seasons for Newton High School before transferring last fall to Grayson - about 24 miles away - to play his senior season. Guess which team won its final 14 games and claimed a state title in 2016? Plot twist: It wasn't Newton. If that's not bad enough, the standout running back had the chutzpah to transfer back to Newton for the spring semester.

Did Taylor break any GHSA rules by bouncing back and forth? No. His father kept the house in the Newton district and rented an apartment last year in the Grayson district. Does that make it right? No. The GHSA has done nothing when it comes to transfers and recruiting (sort of like how the Republicans have nothing to repeal Obamacare after promising to do so for years).

But wait, there's more. The whole public school/private school intermixing remains one big debacle. In Class AA, all-boys private school Benedictine ($11,500-$12,200 yearly tuition) and all-girls private school St. Vincent's ($9,170-$10,858 yearly tuition) each claimed soccer titles last season. Benedictine won a pair of football titles in 2014 and 2016. St. Vincent's dominated in volleyball in 2015 and 2016 before losing in the championship to Coosa earlier this month.

Is it fair that a public school, like Harlem, has to go up against schools like that in postseason play? Isn't this why Class A split its playoffs into public and private in five sports? Why do this for just one classification? If Harlem moves up in class, it will have to face the likes of Atlanta private schools - more of the same.

There's enough controversy surrounding the GHSA to easily fill two, three, four columns. I still don't like how the organization has taken championships out of local communities and moved them to neutral sites. If there were more local control, we wouldn't have issues like the one Evans faced Friday.

Maybe Robin Hines, who became the GHSA executive director in June, will start cleaning up all these mistakes. Then again, the softball disaster was another blunder added to the basket.

If the GHSA doesn't get to work soon, maybe the Georgia legislature will get its way. For now, the GHSA remains a disaster. The softball issue proves just that.

 

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