— EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Thomas County Schools Superintendent Dr. Dusty Kornegay’s response to Thomasville City Board of Education Chairman John Everett’s assertion that it was Thomas County Schools’ decision not to continue the football rivalry with Thomasville.
I read with interest Mr. John Everett’s comments in Tuesday’s Times Enterprise stating that it was his desire to continue the rivalry in sports between Thomas County Central and Thomasville High School.
I respectfully submit that Thomas County Schools has never felt otherwise, and further submit the first step in Mr. Everett’s achieving his objective will be to get Thomasville High School’s athletic director Coach Leroy Ryals on that “same sheet of music.”
Not only did Ryals fail to leave room on his varsity schedule for Central, he has also so far refused to schedule any middle school or junior varsity games with the Yellow Jackets.
The Georgia High School Constitution states clearly that member schools should begin their scheduling after the final vote on new region alignments are made in January: “Member schools may begin scheduling contests for the new reclassification cycle as soon as the final vote has been taken, the membership notified, and any region subdivisions finalized.”
Both Thomasville High School Principal Todd Mobley and I were present at the January 14, 2014, meeting in Macon at which the reclassification plan was formally ratified by the GHSA executive committee. Within minutes of that vote being finalized and our classification issue resolved, I told Mr. Mobley that Central would indeed like to schedule Thomasville. Mr. Mobley said that would have to go through Coach Ryals, and immediately got on his cell phone to call Ryals, who was out of town. I told Mobley to have Ryals contact TCCHS Head Football Coach Bill Shaver or Thomas County Schools Athletic Director Mike Singletary to schedule the game. Mobley said that he would convey that message.
A posting on the Georgia Varsity Sports Vent website “Coach’s Corner,” a blog that some coaches use to find games, dated January 16, 2014, 8:17 a.m., two days after we had offered to play Thomasville, states, “Thomasville Football needs game 0 or 2.” Week “2” was being held open by Central at that time for Thomasville.
Days passed with no communication from Ryals. Meanwhile TCCHS Head Coach Bill Shaver was getting antsy about completing the Yellow Jacket’s schedule, so he contacted me to ask if he should continue to hold a spot open in the Jacket’s schedule for the Bulldogs.
On January 21, I e-mailed Thomasville City Schools Superintendent Sabrina Everett to notify her that Central wanted to schedule Thomasville and requested that she have Ryals contact Shaver to work out the details.
Shortly later on January 21, Ryals sent Shaver a text message stating: “I have been talking to someone on finalizing my schedule. . . .When I know, you will know.”
It is clear that Ryals had not finalized the Bulldog’s schedule as late as January 21 when Central was still offering to play Thomasville. When Shaver had still not heard an answer two days later, he texted Ryals and told him that he needed an answer. Ryals’ reply sent in a text message around noon on January 23, nine days after I had made an offer for Central to play Thomasville, stated simply, “Our schedule is full.”
In Mr. Everett’s remarks concerning the football schedule, he referenced December communication to the effect that the county schools had notified the city that the county did not want to play. I directed head coach Bill Shaver not to schedule games for the 2014-2016 cycle in December because (1) the GHSA Constitution states that scheduling should begin after the region alignments have been ratified in January and (2) I did not want to make any commitments that the county could not fulfill based upon uncertainty as to where TCCHS ultimately might land in the classification realignment.
Our school was engaged in a hotly contested appeal with GHSA concerning our classification, and I did not want any scheduling commitments made that would have made it appear that we were not confident that our appeal would ultimately be successful. One possible outcome of the appeals process could have been that Bainbridge, Central, and Cook would have all landed in region1-4A for football along with the teams that were already there. If that had happened, there would have been 11 teams in the region, and if the region had not voted to sub-divide, there would have been no room left in the schedule for non-region games. There were simply too many moving parts and unpredictable outcomes at that point to make scheduling commitments in December before the final appeals with the GHSA were resolved.
When Shaver conveyed to Ryals in December that he had been directed not to schedule games, Mr. Mobley called me to ask if we were going to in fact play Thomasville. I reminded Mobley of the GHSA regulation stating that scheduling should not begin until after the executive committee vote in January. I told him that we would let him know immediately after the new alignments were finalized.
After reading John Everett’s comments in the Times Enterprise on-line Monday evening, I called Mr. Everett to tell him that I felt that some of his information was incomplete or inaccurate. He stated that Coach Leroy Ryals had told him that he had already made verbal commitments to teams that would complete his schedule before he knew that we were available to play. If that is the case, he clearly began making his schedule before the official window opened for scheduling.
While I know that coaches like to begin making tentative plans before the official scheduling window opens, there is sometimes a fine line between being proactive and being premature. If Ryals did indeed make such a commitment before he knew Central’s official status, it is unfortunate.
Mr. Everett stated that a comment that I made to Mobley in December had offended Thomasville Coach Leroy Ryals. Mobley apparently quoted me as saying that Central needed to play someone “more competitive than Thomasville.” The conversation being referenced was one in which I was frustrated with Mobley about his lack of support for Central on the reclassification committee, and I told him that if he felt that enrollment numbers for football were so crucial that Central should be forced into the 5A classification that perhaps Central needed to play all of its games against larger teams.
That conversation did not end on that note, however. The conversation ended with my telling Mobley that we would only schedule our games after the reclassification vote and that I would let him know if we would have a spot open for Thomasville after region alignments and our classification status was finalized and the official window for scheduling opened.
If Thomasville walked away from playing Central based upon a singular comment from me, I apologize for offending them, but those in authority in Thomasville know with certainty that Thomas County Central did in fact reserve an opening in its varsity football schedule to play Thomasville until Thomasville made the decision to not accept it.