Thomas County Central’s appeal was turned down once again Tuesday in a meeting of the Georgia High School Association’s reclassification committee.
In a 10-2 vote, Central’s request to move to Region 1-AAAA from Region 1-AAAAA in all sports due to isolation was denied. Lee County, which was requesting a move from Class AAAAAA to Class AAAAA, was also denied Tuesday by a unanimous vote. Cook, which was placed in Region 1-AAAA due to the isolation rule, was also denied its request to drop back into Class AAA where its enrollment falls.
Thomasville High principal Todd Mobley, the Region 1-AA representivate and a committee member, was one of the two votes in favor of granting Central’s appeal.
Central now will try once more at a meeting of the entire GHSA executive committee next Tuesday in Thomaston.
“We will go back next week for the full committee meeting,” said Dusty Kornegay, superintendent of the Thomas County Schools. “Quite honestly, I’m not surprised at the outcome because I didn’t expect them to change the recommendation that they had made.
“We have one more shot, which I have really felt all along was our best chance with the larger committee. I am cautiously optimistic that we’ll have a little better outcome in front of the full executive committee next week.”
Central, which has a Class AAAAA enrollment, was placed into Region 1-AAAA for all sports except for football in a Dec. 3 meeting of the reclassification committee due to the GHSA’s isolation policy. However, the committee also used a newly-adopted exemption that kept Central’s football program — as well as that of Bainbridge — in 1-AAAAA. Camden County, likewise, was placed in Region 1-AAAAAA for football and Region 3-AAAAA for all other sports. Evans, near Augusta, as well as Savannah-area schools Effingham County and Richmond Hill were dropped from Class AAAAAA to Class AAAAA in all sports due to the same isolation policy.
That uneven use of the same policy is at the heart of Central’s appeal, which was denied at a Dec. 17 meeting and again Tuesday. Central’s complaint, which was presented Tuesday by TCC principal designee Trista Jones, began by attacking the GHSA’s rationale for placing the Yellow Jackets in 1-AAAA for football, pulled from the Dec. 17 meeting minutes, of “football is a sport where numerical differences have significant impact on competition issues, [so] [TCCHS] should play at the AAAAA level.”
However, in a Jan. 3 letter to the GHSA, Kornegay points out that this rationale was not followed when assigning regions as nearly half of the proposed 64 regions, “the student enrollment at the largest school in the region exceeds the enrollment at the smallest school by more than 50 percent. The smallest gap between the largest and smallest schools in GHSA regions is 12.5 percent (2-4A), and the largest gap is 1,358 percent (8-1A).”
Evans, one of the schools permitted to drop down in all sports “because of the travel distances to other AAAAAA schools,” said the minutes from the Dec. 17 meeting, has an average distance of 130.2 miles to the schools in Region 2-AAAAAA, Kornegay notes in the letter. Central, meanwhile, has an average trip of 141.35 miles one way in Region 1-AAAAA. Likewise, Evans also has a larger enrollment discrepancy compared to the schools in Region 2-AAAAA than Central has to schools in Region 1-AAAA, 46.7 percent larger than the smallest to 29 percent.
“We are not seeking special treatment,” Jones said in her presentation. “We are only asking to be given the same treatment being afforded to schools in our same situation.”
“Thomas County Central is a Title I eligible school. The other schools that have been isolated are more affluent than we are. But we do not begrudge their isolation status. We only want to be treated equally, not discriminated against because of our status in Southwest Georgia.”
In his Jan. 3 letter to the GHSA, Kornegay, who stated in a Dec. 7 letter that “the Thomas County School District is prepared to seek appropriate legal and/or legislative remedies” also states his belief that the football exemption violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
“GHSA’s newly-adopted policy that allows only football to be exempted from GHSA’s current isolation policy violates Title IX because it singles out football, a traditionally male sport, for a preference that is not available to any female sport,” Kornegay writes. “Moreover, this committee’s rationale for the policy — that “football is a sport where numerical differences have significant impact on competition” — is gender-biased and is not supported by data or research. On what basis, then, did this committee determine that football should be given special consideration for protection based upon student enrollment as compared to other sports? It is interesting to note that the Reclassification Committee reached its conclusion on this issue without the benefit of a woman’s input, since no woman sits on GHSA’s Reclassification Committee.”
Also, Kornegay writes that following the GHSA’s decision could put Central in danger of violating Title IX itself.
“By requiring TCCHS to compete in Region 1-5A in football, which necessitates extraordinary travel expenses, GHSA forces TCCHS to allocate a disproportionate amount of its sports budget to football, traditionally a male sport, at the expense of its other sports programs, which include all female sports,” he continued. “This budget burden imposed by GHSA negatively impacts TCCHS’s ability to comply with Title IX. Although Title IX does not require equal amounts of money to be spent on each sport, the overall effects of any differences must be negligible. The effects of super-spending on football due to extra travel costs may very likely impact all other sports at TCCHS more than negligibly.
“In the event a Title IX claim is filed against TCCHS as a result of GHSA’s application of its football exemption policy, TCCHS will seek indemnification from GHSA for any liability TCCHS suffers.”