The Georgia High School Association giveth, and the Georgia High School Association taketh away.
Fortunately for Evans High, the GHSA may now be in a giving mood, just days after taking away any hope of solving the schools problem with long-distance competition travel.
That problem, remember, started last year when Georgia House Speaker Tom Murphy, D-Bremen, pushed through changes in state high school classifications to protect one of his home-town schools from a nearby competitor. The repercussions of that hometown snit led to the juggling of all Georgia high schools into five competitive classes rather than just four.
Evans High, the areas largest school, became the only local class AAAAA competitor. That forces its athletes to travel to south Atlanta for important region matches, logging hundreds of miles and hours in travel time.
School officials last week got a hearing with the GHSA on a petition to create an islolation rule, which not only would help Evans but any other schools in Georgia that are forced into long-distance travel for region competition. If approved, the rule would have allowed such schools to switch to a different classification to keep their games local; in the case of Evans, the school would compete in class AAAA.
Unfortunately, easing onerous travel burdens on student athletes isnt at the top of the GHSAs priority list - and some of Evans competitors, who couldnt care less about the physical or academic health of Evans players, whined that the bigger school would dominate the smaller classification.
We can talk academics all we want, but the bottom line in our profession is how many games you win, Statesboro High coach Buzz Busby told the GHSA board.
That sort of talk was enough for the GHSAs executive committee, which flatly rejected Evans plea for help.
Columbia County school trustee Lee Muns accurately calls the vote a terrible injustice toward the students at Evans, and blasts GHSA Executive Director Ralph Swearngin for displaying a true lack of leadership on the issue. Trustee Regina Buccafusco ripped the complaining coaches for selfishness and a great lack of leadership.
Swearngin seems to have gotten the message. After the stunning rejection, Swearngin proposes what he calls creative scheduling changes in region competition that would cut back on the number of trips for Evans teams, which often surpass 300 miles per game.
Evans Principal Don Brigdon is heartened by the GHSA suggestions, though he remains cautious about negotiations with other region 7-AAAAA teams to work out the details. It is interesting, but there are still some holes in it, Brigdon says.
The Columbia County School Board deserves praise for voting in recent months to spend more money to assist Evans with its exhaustive travel schedule without being unfair to the systems other three high schools. Now, the administration must be equally aggressive in pinning down the GSHA on an agreement that not only eases the burden on travel-weary Evans athletes, but also takes the pressure off of the wallets of taxpayers and Evans boosters.
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