It was the night before Halloween, and Lee Chomskis felt a shiver up his spine.
"I'm scared to death," the Evans High School football coach and athletic director said Tuesday.
Evans High School head football coach Lee Chomskis talks to his team during a time out in a September game. The issue of Evans' classification will go before the Georgia High School Association on Monday morning.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Chomskis wasn't worried about ghosts or goblins; he was looking ahead to Monday, when Evans High School will have its day of reckoning.
The Georgia High School Association will convene at 10 a.m. Monday in Forsyth, Ga., where the GHSA executive committee will vote on an isolation clause, a constitutional change that is being considered specifically because of Evans.
Before the 2000-01 school year, Evans was classified as a Class AAAAA school, and with no other local public schools of that size, Evans joined Region 4-AAAAA, which consists of Atlanta-area schools.
Subsequently, Evans has been burdened by lengthy trips on Interstate 20. The average round trip to compete in Region 4-AAAAA is 320.6 miles.
If an isolation rule is passed, Evans could drop one classification and compete in Region 3-AAAA in 2002-03. If isolation isn't approved Evans would remain in 5-A and play in Region 7-AAAAA. Approval requires a two-thirds majority of the 50-member executive committee.
"Monday, we'll know our fate," Chomskis said.
Columbia County school officials have compiled some compelling numbers - in Region 3-AAAA, Evans athletic teams would average 61.4 miles on road trips; in 7-AAAAA, the round-trip mileage jumps to 270.4.
"Most people recognize the hardship on Evans' teams," said Tommy Price, Columbia County Superintendent of Schools. "I'd hope if it's a vote of defeat, there could be some reasonable solution for Evans. We're hoping for a favorable vote; if not, we'll go to Plan B and fight for a solution."
Excessive travel hurts student-athletes, who are strained academically because of missed classes. The competitive issues impact the entire athletic program.
An example of the monetary side of the situation occurred during this football season. Evans played Greenbrier High School in the season opener at Blanchard Stadium on Aug. 31. Chomskis estimates the gate for that game was $15,000.
The next week, Region 4-AAAAA foe Riverdale High visited Evans. The gate that night was around $3,500.
Fans were not as interested in seeing the Knights play the Atlanta-area team, but fans flocked to see Evans match up with Columbia County squad Greenbrier.
If isolation is approved, and Evans enters Region 3-AAAA, the Knights will play local teams, including Greenbrier and Lakeside, and those rivalries would boost the athletic budget.
Should isolation not pass, Evans will play more Atlanta teams, which would be a double-whammy: the football gates that are primarily responsible for carrying prep athletic programs would take a hit, and Evans would still have large expenditures for travel in all sports.
"All of our eggs are in one basket. We need to win the vote or we're in 7-AAAAA. That would be no better than it was," Chomskis said.
During the GHSA fall meeting, the executive committee voted 39-6 to approve isolation as a topic for discussion at its next meeting, which is Monday.
"Thirty-nine to six sounds like overwhelming support, but it wouldn't take too many votes to change that," Price said. "I don't have a good feel of whether the momentum has shifted, but philosophically, many are opposed to allowing a team to play down."
Since the initial Oct. 1 vote, Evans High boosters have sent correspondence to committee members, arguing their case for instituting an isolation rule.
"We're not just resting on our laurels because there was a 39-6 vote. We know some votes will change, and we're doing as much as we can. We cannot afford to lose six or seven of those people," said Chomskis, who realizes other Georgia schools have been presenting a counter argument.
"The concern I've heard is that the rule is too open-ended, and people are very wary of it," he said.
If an isolation rule is passed, other schools besides Evans will plead hardship. For instance, Statesboro High School, which competes in Region 3-AAAA against Richmond and Columbia county schools, probably will follow suit if the rule is approved Monday.
Ironically, Region 3-AAAA representatives sent a letter to the GHSA saying Evans would not be welcomed into the region if an isolation policy is adopted.
"I'm very disappointed those schools voted against us," Chomskis said. "It's not about competition, it's about these kids being on the road."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.