It is disappointing that state lawmakers apparently are unable this session to save Evans High School athletes from a grueling travel schedule - one that the lawmakers themselves had a hand in creating.
Though some apologists say otherwise, Evans long-distance trips began as a result of Georgia House Speaker Tom Murphys quarrels with a hometown schools competition. That led to changes in how the Georgia High School Association categorizes public schools, and ultimately to the expansion to five competitive categories for all schools.
Evans High is the only school in the Augusta area large enough for the new Region AAAAA. Evans athletes have been forced into redeye 300-mile round-trips to find other schools large enough to play.
Could Evans be made smaller? School officials found that idea unworkable, at least until another high school can be built. The best answer seemed to be getting the GHSA to allow isolated schools to play against closer, smaller schools.
The GHSA, a private organization with little accountability, rejec-ted Evans pleas for help. State Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, took up the cause, and attempted to force the GHSA to adopt an isolation policy helping schools like Evans.
Unfortunately, reluctant lawmakers allowed the effort to bog down. They heard from a few hyper-competitive schools afraid the isolation rule would force them to play tougher schedules. Their fear of losing games overwhelms any sympathy for hard-pressed student athletes, so legislators sidestepped the issue by calling on Evans and the GHSA to compromise.
They may as well have asked for Mideast peace. Without a strong push from lawmakers, the GHSA has no incentive to help Evans - especially not when the organizations officials pretend their Band-Aid measures have already helped the school. We feel like weve done a lot, says clueless GHSA Director Ralph Swearngin.
What has the GHSA done? Not much. Evans teams have managed to slightly trim their travel schedules, but only through the cooperation of schools in its region. The GHSA has done little more than pretend to feel the schools pain while providing a gripe forum for potential competitors.
Legislative action isnt likely to go anywhere this session, so Harbin pledges to work on efforts to rein in the GHSA next year. By then, lets hope Evans still has a viable athletic program.
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