From CNHI Reports
THOMASVILLE — The Georgia High School Association (GHSA) has called an emergency meeting to specifically address the recent sports reclassification of state Class 5A.
The Tuesday meeting of the Reclassification Committee is of particular interest to Thomas County Central High School and its fans since that is the classification the Yellow Jackets were placed in for football competition by the GHSA, while at the same time placed in Class 4A for every other sport because of geographic isolation.
That decision subsequently created a wave of confusion and discontent within the high school community since Central was declared to be an isolated school which should have qualified it for a more travel- and expense-friendly region placement.
In response to that decision, the school system submitted a letter of protest to the GHSA.
“Three high schools in (Class 5A) were granted isolation status for all sports while our school was singled out along with only two others for what appears to be discriminatory treatment,” Thomas County Superintendent Dusty Kornegay said. “Of the 451 GHSA high schools in the state, 448 of them are in the same classification for all sports. Why should TCCHS and Bainbridge be singled out for disparate treatment?”
Camden County is slated to play Class 5A in all sports except for football. In football, the Wildcats are playing in Class 6A. Evans — near Augusta — along with Richmond Hill and Effingham County — both suburbs of Savannah — were allowed to play down in Class 5A in all sports because of isolation in Class 6A.
Because of its enrollment numbers, Dalton was recently classified as a Class 5A school. However, if changes are made for Thomas County Central, Bainbridge and Camden County, there could be a ripple effect across Class 5A. Another issue the GHSA will address is Region 6-5A, which has 17 teams in the region. Again, any changes could have a ripple effect across the state.
“We have tried to slice and dice the data used by the classification committee every way that we can to find a legitimate explanation for the committee’s decision,” Kornegay said. “The reasons that we were given fall apart under very basic scrutiny, leading us to believe that there may have been other agendas at work. The school district trusts that the concerns raised in its letter will be given careful consideration by the GHSA reclassification committee. We intend to do everything that we can to get fair treatment for our students and our community.”
The primary concerns expressed by Thomas County Central center on the extreme travel burdens the school and community will face as part of a 5A schedule, with an average distance of over 140 miles per game one way anticipated. The system also addressed concern about the other schools in Georgia being given geographic isolation status in all sports while others were not, as well as confusion regarding whether the school would be considered a 5A school or a 4A school.
“For example, we specifically wanted to know how our school would be represented with things like the All Sports Trophy which is awarded to the schools in each class that excel in all of their athletic programs,” Kornegay stated. “Would our representation be in class 5A or 4A? How would our points for that trophy be compiled? There are numerous logistical problems with dual classification that have not been adequately contemplated by the current GHSA Constitution and By-Laws. On the surface, it appears the GHSA was not ready for a change this big.”
The anticipated costs involved with the split classification designation were also a primary concern for the school system.
“We did attempt to address how much it was going to cost Thomas County for the excessive travel our football program would be incurring with the schedule our team would be facing with a 5A slate,” Kornegay added. “On average, we calculated the total cost for each of the long trips to be near $8,000 per game. Knowing that we would have four such trips on our schedule, we felt that was unreasonable.”
Kornegay anticipates that those concerns and others regarding Central’s status will be discussed during this meeting.
“It is our hope that the GHSA will consider all of the points we have made about what we believe is a decision that was made without adequate evaluation of all the particular circumstances that are unique to Thomas County Central,” Kornegay concluded. “We do understand that this is a complicated issue and that many different elements come into play. However, our primary concern is the well-being of our students and the Thomas County community as a whole, and we intend to see those concerns adequately addressed.”