ATLANTA - Georgia Rep. Ben Harbin on Monday said it is time for the state legislature to overhaul the Georgia High School Association, which he says is forcing student athletes to make excessively long road trips.
Harbin, R-Martinez, said he plans to spend the next year cataloging problems lawmakers can find with GHSA, the governing body of high school sports.
"We'll just have to come back with an omnibus bill next year that fixes GHSA," Harbin said. "I think people all over the state will support us because academics should come first."
Harbin's district, 10 miles northwest of Augusta, is home to Evans High School. Students from Evans travel an average of 320 miles roundtrip for each of their road games.
"I would hate to sit down and calculate how much class time they miss," said Brian Killips, the head coach of the boys' varsity soccer team at Evans.
Earlier this month, parents and coaches from Evans asked the legislature to support a bill preventing athletic teams from traveling more than 200 miles roundtrip.
Hesitant to create a new law, legislators asked Evans and GHSA on March 5 to try to reach a compromise, instead.
However, almost one month later, all parties involved have had little communication with each other.
"I have no idea what's going on," said Ralph Swearngin, GHSA's director. "I have not been in touch with any legislators since the time when we met."
Swearngin contends that GHSA has done its part, already modifying Evans' travel schedule for the next two years by reducing the school's average mileage to 270 miles per game.
"We feel like we've done a lot to do that for (the coming school year)," he said.
Still, lawmakers point out dozens of other schools in the state are also making road trips in excess of 300 miles roundtrip, keeping students and teachers out of the classroom.
"If (GHSA) can't handle it, we may have to address it in a legislative way," said Rep. Dubose Porter, D-Dublin, who chairs the education subcommittee in the House of Representatives.
The bill that would limit team travel to 200 miles is pending before the education subcommittee, meaning it will likely die this session.
Legislative rules essentially kill bills that haven't passed at least one of the two chambers by the 33rd day of the session, which was March 26.
However, Harbin said he will attempt to tack the 200-mile rule onto another bill that has, making it an amendment.
"We've got people around this thing, Republican and Democrat, who want to get this to the floor," Harbin said.
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