When Evans High School needed a helping hand two years ago, Buzz Busby delivered a slap in the face.
The Statesboro High School football coach and athletic director made an impassioned speech to the Georgia High School Association Executive Committee and torpedoed an Evans proposal for playing in Region 3-AAAA.
A move to Statesboro's region would have alleviated the Columbia County school's travel woes in Class AAAAA, but Busby decried the idea of Evans competing in a lower classification.
Now Busby is welcoming Evans with open arms, and the Statesboro coach has also extended an olive branch to Greenbrier and Lakeside high schools.
Busby wants Greenbrier, Lakeside and Evans to join Region 2-AAAA in 2004, and he may get his wish.
The GHSA Executive Committee will soon vote on region realignment proposals for the 2004-06 seasons. Despite currently being placed in Region 8-AAAA, which has 10 schools located in Athens and east of Atlanta, the three Columbia County programs expect to be moved to Region 2-AAAA, which features Statesboro, Ware County, Effingham County and Wayne County.
Athletic directors from Evans, Greenbrier and Lakeside met last week with Columbia County school officials to discuss the situation. Evans athletic director Gail Connor was content to stay in Region 8, while Lakeside athletic director Randy Hill and Greenbrier's AD Mickey Derrick both lobbied for a move to Region 2.
"We presented pros and cons, and we looked at logistics and facts," Connor said. "We still prefer to go north, but going south has its advantages."
Connor wasn't happy about the prospect of trips to Waycross and Jesup to compete in Region 2-AAAA, but there was a tradeoff. "Statesboro said they would vote with the Columbia County schools on region issues, and I'm willing to take them at their word," she said.
The 2-1 vote last week of the county athletic directors seems to have settled the debate.
"We just looked at what's best for all the athletes," Hill said. "It's still at issue which region would be better for the Columbia County schools, but it won't be long before we find out where we'll go."
The region realignment proposal goes before the GHSA State Executive Committee on Oct. 13 in Forsyth. At that time, the committee will vote to either accept or reject the plan.
If the vote is "yes," and the realignment is approved as written, Greenbrier, Evans and Lakeside would enter Region 8-AAAA. If the proposal is shot down, the three Columbia County schools probably will be placed in Region 2-AAAA.
"Under 'New Business' later that day, other plans could be submitted, which is what I think is going to happen," said Steve Figueroa, director of media relations for the GHSA. "I don't think - but can't predict - the quad-A realignment will fly as it stands right now."
The GHSA has received numerous complaints about the Class AAAA proposal, and Region 2 has been a prime target for the critics.
"The four-team region has brought a lot of heat," Figueroa said. "We had those three schools (in Columbia County), and we had those other four schools stuck in the southeast corner of the state as isolated as the Columbia County schools are. No matter where we put them, there was going to be a hardship on somebody."
Although entering Region 2 would mean long trips on back roads to Waycross and Jesup, the total travel mileage would be less than if Columbia County competed in the 13-team Region 8.
"There are benefits and disadvantages to both regions," Derrick said.
Columbia County officials are not on the agenda to speak Oct. 13 in Forsyth, but others will be there to argue against the proposed realignment.
"I really don't know what their region (8-AAAA) is planning, but I do know that the Clarke Central principal is on the agenda to present a case to throw us out," Derrick said.
And, unlike two years ago, Busby will be in Columbia County's corner.
"Under the current region alignment, Statesboro would have to pick up seven football games, and there aren't seven teams that want to play Statesboro," Figueroa said.
Proposed Region 8-AAAA for 2004-06
Greenbrier, Lakeside, Evans, Clarke Central, Cedar Shoals, Madison County, Jackson County, Habersham Central, Rockdale County, Heritage, Salem, Eastside, Loganville
Proposed Region 2-AAAA for 2004-06
Wayne County, Statesboro, Effingham County, Ware County
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.