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GHSA Does It Again — By Tommy Purser

The Georgia High School Association (GHSA) has done it again.

The Association tried, once again, to shoot itself in the foot. The bullet missed, hit a mud puddle, splashed up mud, and the Association is left, once again, with mud on its face.

Why the GHSA can’t rule high school sports without fumbling the football at an alarmingly regular rate is beyond me.

For decades now, they’ve struggled to get the private school/public school mess straightened out and failed miserably.

And they can’t get the recruitment issue right. They don’t even come close.

There is a general belief among the coaching ranks around Dougherty County and other counties close to Lee County, that Lee County has recruited players for years. Whether that’s true or not is irrelevant. “Perception is reality” and the perception is that, as a result of recruiting players, Lee County, once a region doormat, has become a Class 6A football powerhouse.

The Dougherty County athletic director told me he knew Lee County recruited players from Dougherty High, Albany High and Westover, he appealed to the GHSA on behalf of his student athletes and lost the appeal. “I knew it wouldn’t do any good to appeal,” he said.

Several years ago, during a halftime interview with a private school principal during a GHSA dome game, the principal announced proudly that his school starts recruiting players in the 6th and 7th grade. Yet GHSA bylaws prohibit public schools from recruiting players.

But back to the latest foot-shooting incident.

A Lowndes County assistant football coach took a job as an assistant at Cook High School during the 2022 football season. A football player who played at Lowndes County, Kyree Fuller, transferred to Cook in January 2023 after his mother, a native of Adel and Cook County, moved back to her home county. He wanted to play football at Cook but there is an otherwise obscure “rule” in the GHSA that a player can’t follow a coach from one school to another. Cook school officials sought to get the player the GHSA’s approval to play because his mother moved her family to Cook. In reality, the player wasn’t following the coach, he was following his mother.

So, the GHSA gave the player a “hardship” case ruling in August, saying the player could play for Cook High School.

Six games into the 2023 football season, a rival school, Fitzgerald, filed a protest against the player’s eligibility claiming he violated the “following a coach” rule. The GHSA ruled in favor of Fitzgerald, declared the student ineligible, and ordered Cook to forfeit the five games they won in which the player in question participated.

Cook filed an appeal with the GHSA and an appeals committee sided with the GHSA, which comes as no surprise to anyone who watches how the GHSA operates.

[I’ve been to one of those appeals hearings and came away with the opinion that the GHSA “court of appeals” is little more than a kangaroo court set up to rule in favor of the GHSA no matter what the facts are.]

But officials at Cook didn’t quit. They took the issue to court and Alapaha District Judge Clayton A. Tomlinson issued a restraining order against the GHSA last Friday, stating that the GHSA had no provision in its bylaws to punish an athlete or a team retroactively once the GHSA declares the athlete eligible.

GHSA executive director Robin Hines said the GHSA planned to appeal the court’s ruling unless the trustees moved in favor of Cook on Tuesday.

So Cook High made a final appeal Tuesday before the GHSA board of trustees to overturn five forfeits assessed to its football team.

And as fate would have it, Cook, its forfeited games temporarily restored to wins, played Fitzgerald, the school that made the complaint against Cook last Friday night.

Cook School Superintendent urged Hornet fans to be “a positive support for our students and our team on Friday night….. we need the 12th Man in a positive way.”

Cook won the game against Fitzgerald 14-7.

1 Comment

  1. Jim Gober on December 16, 2023 at 7:45 pm

    Not sure what the “private school/public school mess” is exactly, but the GHSA has strongly encouraged the smaller private schools to leave the GHSA for GIAA. At least 3 A Division I private schools are leaving this month following the reclassification mess, and probably several more will follow soon, because the private schools are treated unfairly by the GHSA.

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