One of Columbia County's private schools thinks the grass is greener on the other side of the fence - rather, Augusta Christian Schools has decided that athletic competition is keener on the other side of the river.
Augusta Christian announced Thursday that it will become a member of the South Carolina Independent School Association. The move is effective June 1, and was made to alleviate hardships associated with athletic travel while competing in the Georgia Independent School Association.
"The move does not take us to the other end of the earth. We are just expanding our borders," said Bruce Lane, AC's athletic director and head football coach. "Many of us cross the Savannah River daily. Beginning next fall, when we cross the Savannah, it will be to compete."
The switch most likely will place Augusta Christian in a region with schools in Columbia, S.C., which would reduce AC's round-trip mileage for road contests.
The past two years, AC's football team has competed in a GISA region that included George Walton (Monroe), Eagles Landing (McDonough) and Riverside Military Academy (Gainesville).
In basketball, Augusta Christian's GISA region currently consists of Augusta Prep, Westminster, George Walton and John Milledge. The travel outside of the Augusta schools is more than 100 miles per trip.
Travel, safety, missed class time and the ability of parents and fans to attend events were all factors in the decision to move out of the GISA and into the SCISA.
"We have nothing but good things to say about the GISA and their administrative team of Michael Drake and Tommy Whittle. They have done an outstanding job of guiding the GISA into the 21st century," Lane said. "We appreciate the opportunity to become a member of the SCISA. They are a first-class organization that will afford our students and athletes many opportunities.
"This was not a knee-jerk reaction, but rather an option that had been explored at other time in the school's history. There has been much prayer and research that has gone into the decision to make this change."
Augusta Christian is not the only school that crosses state lines. Saint Andrews in Savannah has been a member of the SCISA for several years, and Tennessee crowned its first non-Tennessee school champion last fall when a Mississippi program won a state title in football.
"We are not blazing a new trail," Lane said. "We will have to adjust in different ways ... new opponents, new procedures, and other differences in the associations."
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