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33 schools meet to discuss new league
Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Wilcox County principal Chad Davis says that he doesn't want his school to leave the Georgia High School Association, but he believes it's going to happen next year if a group of some 30 schools that met in Wilcox on Tuesday remain solid in their desire to form their own league.


Their main complaint is that they don't want to play for state championships against private schools.


Unlike some states, the GHSA does not have separate public and private school divisions.


So representatives from 33 public high schools met Tuesday at the Wilcox Ag Center in Rochelle, and 26 of them voted to pursue forming their own association. The other seven also voiced support but wanted to review the plan with their school boards. Other schools are interesting in leaving the GHSA but could not attend Tuesday, Davis said.


"If the GHSA came out tomorrow and said we'll fix the problem, that would be great, but I don't see that happening," Davis said. "I'd be very surprised if we got anywhere with the GHSA. We've tried to propose solutions to them, but it all got shot down."


The problem, as Davis sees it, is that private schools have unfair advantages in sports. He points to private schools winning more than 80 percent of all Class A state titles over the past several years despite there being more public schools than private in that classification.


Tuesday's meeting - attended by 26 of the 33 football-playing public schools slated for Class A in 2012 - resulted in the formation of a committee that will meet Dec. 21 to discuss bylaws and logistics of a new association. Another meeting will be held tentatively on Jan. 4 to present a plan to potential member schools. No group of schools has ever pulled out of the GHSA, which was formed more than 100 yards ago.


Locally, Truetlen High School did not attend the meeting. Viking Athletic Director Britt Ingle said that he thought it would be a conflict of interest for him because he is on the GHSA Executive Committee, and that “at this time, we are not that dissatisfied with the GHSA. We are gonna do what’s in the best interest of our kids."

 Montgomery County AD Greg Busby attended the meeting on Tuesday and said he was there to, “hear what they had to say about private schools and fairness of play, or lack thereof, and to see what everybody had to say. Leaving the GHSA was not voted on. What we voted on was coming up with ideas to help public schools compete with private schools.”


Schools attending Tuesday came from as far as Gordon Lee in Calhoun to Terrell County in southwest Georgia to Claxton in southeast Georgia.


Representatives from the Georgia Independent School Association, which governs about 45 small private schools that play football, also attended and were willing to help manage the new league and allow its members to compete against GISA schools. The GHSA will not allow its members to play non-members.


At the GHSA, executive director Ralph Swearngin said his association had no immediate plans to negotiate a compromise and had no position on the group's plans.


"The GHSA is a voluntary association," Swearngin said. "It's always a year-to-year membership. We'd certainly hope our schools feel they're being served well and that they'd all stay, but at any time they feel better served by another organization, obviously they can leave."


Wesleyan athletics director Marc Khedouri said he hoped no schools left the GHSA and that public and private schools continued to compete against each other. Wesleyan, a private school in Norcross, has been a lightning rod for these debates because of its success in sports. It has won more than 30 team state championships since 2000.


"What message would you send as a public school about why you're not competing?" Khedouri asked. "They [private schools] have better resources? There are some far-reaching messages here that are not being addressed. Somehow this has become about winning state championships. I wish it weren't."


Swearngin's view was much the same.


"If the only mark of success is whether you win a state championship, then there are not a lot of successful schools in our state," Swearngin said. "If you see success as letting kids participate and learn the lessons that come from competitive activities, then all schools can be successful."


Wilcox County football coach Mark Ledford said he likes competing against private schools. He just doesn't believe in competing for the same state championships.


"I'm not against them," Ledford said. "They're putting out a great product and doing great things, but they should be playing each other. Classifications are done so that schools that are alike can play each other. You can't tell me we're like [football state finalists] Landmark Christian and Savannah Christian. It's just apples and oranges.



The Rochelle 33

These are the 33 schools that sent representatives to Rochelle on Tuesday to discuss forming their own high school association to govern their athletics:


Atkinson County

Baconton Charter

Calhoun County

Central (Talbotton)

Charlton County

Chattahoochee County


Clinch County

Dooly County

Echols County

Glascock County

Gordon Lee

Hancock Central

Irwin County

Jenkins County

Johnson County

Lanier County

Miller County

Montgomery County


Schley County

Seminole County

Social Circle

Stewart County

Taylor County

Terrell County

Tift County

Twiggs County

Warren County


Wheeler County

Wilcox County

Wilkinson County

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