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Keep state legislators out of the state playoff system

I read last week where a member of the General Assembly from Douglas in south Georgia introduced a very important bill to be considered as a possible state law. Thankfully, I have forgotten this representative's name because I don't want to further embarrass him in print.

This bill? State high school football championship games can no longer end in a tie. Overtime must be played to avoid having co-champions of any of the five classifications. The goal is to make this not a rule or policy of the Georgia High School Association, but a state law.

A state law? With concerns over education, the budget, HOPE scholarships, redistricting, sunshine laws, smoking limits and let's not forget teacher salaries, this gentleman is clogging the hopper with a bill concerning a high school football game?

It seems fans in Clinch County and Hawkinsville are still upset that last December's Class A championship game ended in a tie, resulting in the schools being declared co-champions.

In other words, each of these small communities wanted the whole enchilada, not just half.

They obviously found them a politician to champion their cause under the golden dome.

The GHSA has long-held such a rule for state championship football games. Clinch County and Hawkinsville were not the first two schools to share a title, though it is rare. It last occurred in 1991 when Kendrick and Lakeside/DeKalb shared the AAA crown. Before that Valdosta and Griffin tied for Class AAAA in 1978.

I'm not sure what the reasoning behind this is. Maybe rather than having one team celebrating and one team heartbroken, the GHSA is trying to make everyone happy. Practically speaking, since the tournament is over, why risk further injury to tired players in an unnecessary overtime? There can be no further advancement so just give'em both a trophy.

Don't be surprised if the GHSA executive committee, meeting later this month, votes to start playing overtime in future championship games that end in a tie. This has been their normal reaction in the past when politicians have tried to butt into the organizations' business. The thinking is to change a rule themselves before the change is forced down their throat via legislation.

The best example of this is when the issue of private schools being kicked out of the GHSA came up a few years back. Certain politicians wanted them out because they seemed to have an advantage over smaller public schools. The GHSA's answer was to keep them in but multiply their enrollments by 1.5 and switch from four to five classifications. They responded to the threat of political interference by beating the politicians to the punch.

The GHSA is an organization that has long been a model of self-governance. They do some things now, mostly for money, that I don't agree with, but the membership approves it. Every region selects its own representative to the executive committee so every school can have a voice in the policy making process.

Personally, I'm not so sure I wouldn't like to see championship game ties broken so as to have only one winner. Nevertheless, it's not such a big deal that it needs to be made state law. Once that kind of precedent is set, who knows what might come next.

This is one time I'd like to see the GHSA step up and defend its turf. Send a message to Atlanta. Just because there is a group of greedy fans out there somewhere, we're not going to start changing the rules because the general assembly wants to arm twist. Unlike Congress' threat to step into the baseball steroid scandal, co-championships aren't a matter of life and death and they don't affect the integrity of high school sports.

Laws should be made only for the good of the people. I also suspect that if overtime were used in tied football championships the losers would whine that they should go back to the old system.

I can hear it now. "Our boys played it close. They deserve a ring too. It used to be that way!"

Web posted on Thursday, March 3, 2005


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