Augusta Prep denied football light request

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A Martinez private school's football team might not be playing under Friday night lights.

After postponing a decision earlier this month, the Columbia County Commission rejected a rezoning Tuesday that would have allowed Augusta Preparatory Day School to erect lights around its football stadium on Flowing Wells Road.

The revision would have allowed the school to mount light posts 80 to 90 feet tall at four spots around the field.

Several residents of neighboring Springlakes subdivision opposed the lights, and the commission voted 3-1 to not allow them.

Commissioner Charles Allen abstained from the vote. When asked why after the meeting, he said, "I just decided not to vote."

Springlakes homeowners have argued that the light and noise pollution from nighttime athletic events is too disruptive.

"If the situation were in (Augusta Prep's) backyard, they would be taking the same position as Springlakes," neighborhood resident Rob MacGregor told the commission.

Commissioner Trey Allen, a Springlakes resident, initiated the motion to disapprove. Chairman Ron Cross and Commissioner Bill Morris voted with him.

When the action was considered May 3, Commissioner Ron Thigpen moved to table the motion until Tuesday in hopes of reaching a compromise between Augusta Prep and Springlakes. His substitute motion called for limiting the school to just 20 events a year that require the lights, forbidding the lights to be used during practices and after 10 p.m., adding more trees and shrubs to buffer nearby homes, and indefinitely prohibiting the school from adding lights to its baseball stadium.

Augusta Prep officials said they would comply with Thigpen's suggestions, and Head of Schools Jack Hall said it is asking to use the lights for only 34 hours out of more than 8,000 hours in a year.

Thigpen is the only commissioner who sided with Augusta Prep.

Hall said he recently learned that no county permits are necessary to operate temporary portable lights at any event in the county, which might provide the school an alternative to permanent stadium lights.

Hall has said Prep officials had hoped to install the lights by football season.

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.

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MrsSmith
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MrsSmith 05/18/11 - 08:57 pm
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Again, they weren't asking

Again, they weren't asking for just home football games. They wanted much, much more. See, there's more to this story than you thought. We aren't opposed to any sport at Prep - we just want them to keep it to daytime hours on the fields on top of our neighborhood. This has nothing to do with any other stadium anywhere else. This is about a field very close to homes in a situation where the school promised in 1997 NOT to install lights. Jack Hall said today he couldn't believe all this effort just to stop boys from playing football. We don't want to stop them - we encourage them to play. We just don't want night time games in our backyard. Come see how close it is, or go on the Columbia County website and check out the aerial maps. Instead of just assuming we are horrible people, get your information. We are good people with children who care about our community. Some of the strongest volunteers in Columbia County come from Springlakes. As a neighborhood we give and give. I'm proud of that. Now I want my neighbors to be able to enjoy their homes in peace - at night.

smiles68
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smiles68 05/18/11 - 09:18 pm
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Reading these comments are

Reading these comments are like watching reality TV...quite entertaining, nasty and pathetic. Seriously...who goes to Prep to play football? It's known for academics and should be proud of that. If you want to play football - go to Evans, Lakeside, Greenbrier or any of our schools that have outstanding football players that actually are mentioned in the Sports section of the newspaper. I just found out through all of this light controversy that Augusta Prep even had a football team.

Just My Opinion
6069
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Just My Opinion 05/18/11 - 09:32 pm
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john.q.publius, since you

john.q.publius, since you referred to my comment, I will respond. Like I said, my info came directly from people who live in Springlakes and who have told me that kids have been leaving cigarette butts and trash on the property line and within their own property for years. They have actually seen these boys urinating on their property-line bushes, and yelled at them to stop, and usually met with laughter. If you don't believe me, ask the administrators at Prep...I'm just going on what these folks are telling me, and they have no reason to lie to me. This didn't just happen..it's been going on for years. But, you know what, that's really a side issue, isn't it? Kids will be kids and do stupid things...not the end of the world. I think it's time for people to be mature about it, let it go, and move on. The commissioners have voted on it and it's done. These are the commissioners that have been voted in by ALL the Columbia County residents, so if you don't like it, then vote for someone else next time. I'm sure the folks at Prep will turn this around and try again at a later date.

evans14
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evans14 05/18/11 - 09:38 pm
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Yeah, the public schools are

Yeah, the public schools are known for their athletics and Augusta Prep is known for its academics. But just because, as you say, Augusta Prep doesn't have any outstanding athletes (They do, they have a lot of them) doesn't mean they shouldn't even be able to play.

MrsSmith
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MrsSmith 05/18/11 - 09:43 pm
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Evans14 - who's stopping them

Evans14 - who's stopping them from playing? Not having lights doesn't in any way stop them from playing football. JV and middle school teams play in daylight - does that mean it's not "real" football? If for some reason they choose not to play then that's their decision made because they can't play at the time of day they want to play. Please, get your facts straight before you make silly statements. Yes, Prep has many outstanding athletes, outstanding students, etc. None of this has anything to do with nighttime football games.

evans14
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evans14 05/18/11 - 09:50 pm
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Mrs Smith, the team is going

Mrs Smith, the team is going to still play, but they are having trouble getting on a region schedule because of the difficulties scheduling games during the day. If they can't get on a schedule they will only play around three games a season. Working from April to October to only play 3 or less games seems like a bit of a waste doesn't it? But I guess that means Springlakes would have even less noise.

alsoinformed
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alsoinformed 05/18/11 - 09:57 pm
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Smiles68 - I'm glad you found

Smiles68 - I'm glad you found out about Augusta Prep's football team. You may also be interested to know that two of their graduates this year are going on to play college football. Not bad for the team's first year. That information was released by Augusta Prep's college counselor, even though it has not been reported in the newspaper.

john.q.publius
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john.q.publius 05/19/11 - 07:13 am
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All right, let's just apply

All right, let's just apply the "logic" behind many of these comments back onto the people who are making them:

1 - "Nobody is stopping Prep from playing any sport. Just play it in the daytime." Fine. Nobody is stopping any Columbia County school from playing any sport. Just play them all in the daytime. This is SUCH an obvious solution that I am surprised that this same commission has spent hundreds of thousand$ of commission money--in ADDITION to BOE money--over the years to install lights, but there is surely no reason to continue paying those electric bills. Obviously, the BOE has been deluded all this time, and any sport that cannot be played in the daytime does not need to be played. Let's see the commission act on this.

2 - "Prep got along just fine without football for 50 years." Fine. Excellent. Prior to about 1995, ALL schools got along just fine without computers and all the other technology we are now paying for. Since progress sometimes has a cost, and we don't like the costs, and since we "got along fine" for a long time without something, let's use the coercive power of local government to prevent that progress. Who will move to eliminate all computers and internet access in our public schools? I will second the motion.

3 - "I heard from an unsubstantiated source who has a clear conflict of interest that those Prep kids have been misbehaving and don't deserve to have the same facilities that every single other school in the county has." Ok. Fine. I heard from MY friend who lives in Springlakes that everyone who opposes this project is actually an alien from Alpha Centauri, here to prevent our kids from having access to a full range of athletic options so that they will be fatter and more juicy when the time comes for the alien invasion and subsequent consumption of the human race. I mean, since we are "reasoning" by hearsay and baseless assertion, why not go for the big score?

4 - "The Commissioners have voted on it, it's over, it's time to move on." Fine. What you don't know is that the Commission is about to pass a measure that will prohibit all Columbia County grads from enrolling at the University of Georgia. Not in that language, of course. They are simply going to deny the millage increase necessary to fund sufficient science instruction, leading to students having too few years of science to be admitted. Once they are done voting on that, it will be done, the measure will have been passed, and it will be time to move on, right? (ps-that's not true, but I gotcha for just a second there, didn't I? Are you going to say that you would, in that circumstance, support the idea that just because the almighty Commission voted on something, that their vote is legal and not subject to appeal or discussion?)

john.q.publius
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john.q.publius 05/19/11 - 07:19 am
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MrsSmith, the deal proposed

MrsSmith, the deal proposed by the school was "no more than 20 nights per year." Slice and dice it however you want, make any attempt you wish to cast the school as somehow less than transparent, duplicitous, whatever you like. Their offer is a matter of public record, as is the Springlakes board's unanimous vote to reject ANY compromise whatsoever, regardless of the terms.

lifetimeaikenite
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lifetimeaikenite 05/19/11 - 07:24 am
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mrssmith said....."Anyone

mrssmith said....."Anyone enrolled at Prep knew there wasn't a lighted football stadium." Just as anyone who bought a house in Spring Lakes knew they were moving in beside a HIGH SCHOOL! She also said...."Come see how close it is, or go on the Columbia County website and check out the aerial maps." Again ...whose choice was it to build so close to the school and the football field??? Did the school put the field close to the houses or did the people choose to put their houses close to the school?? "JV and middle school teams play in daylight..." Umm no. JV teams play at night. They may start in the day but they end in the dark. Also you have to remember that during football season it gets dark around 5:00. Middle school teams do the same thing. In fact it is a possibility that many of Preps games may stopped early due to darkness. I am going to state this again.....Why is this so bad when Spring Lakes themselves host swimming meets IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD in the dark, under their own lights???

john.q.publius
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john.q.publius 05/19/11 - 09:05 am
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We're just not going to

We're just not going to agree, and that's ok. I never played football, don't coach football, don't have a child who plays football and I don't go to football games. I am interested in this issue in terms of local government overreach and denial of basic rights to local residents. That topic interests me in principle, because what is done to my neighbor can be done to me; it interests me on a practical level, because we have seen many times that local govt's decisions--when based on feelings, politics, personal connections, or any factors other than the body of law and the facts of the case--end up costing the local taxpayer big money when we have to pay damages. I am not even beginning to suggest that such would be the case with this issue; I simply do not see the legal reasoning that led to this case, and so it seems to me that the county has left itself exposed to all sorts of negative consequences in order to accommodate a few residents. I would never make the case that an athletic facility--with or without lights--would have zero impact on the life of someone whose backyard abuts that facility. I just don't see that that resident has a LEGAL right to deny normal use of that property, and I am not convinced that the Commissioners' vote was in line with what the law actually provides for in these cases. I do think that I am allowed to hold that reasoned opinion without being vilified and without vilifying others in turn. If any of my examples or questions have been over the line, I apologize for having crossed that line. Have a good day, all!

AEinstein
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AEinstein 05/19/11 - 09:26 am
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Some great points made in

Some great points made in previous posts regarding this issue not passing the smell test. Typical Columbia County politics. I will be sending a check to Augusta Prep specifically for the purchase of portable lights for their athletic events. I live in Columbia County and my children graduated from Columbia County schools. This was a very bad decision by our elected officials.

Just My Opinion
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Just My Opinion 05/19/11 - 09:55 am
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JohnQ, just when I was

JohnQ, just when I was getting sick and tired of hearing your rants, you reminded me that you have a right to your "reasoned opinion". It is obvious that you are very upset and agitated by what you preceive to be an unjust action by the commissioners. In this case, I am not upset, but you also reminded me that, in the future, some action could be handed down that would make me as passionately agitated as you are now. Aeinstein, don't worry about sending a check to Prep...they can afford just about anything they want to do.

Gothamist
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Gothamist 05/19/11 - 10:35 am
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Just My Opinion- "The

Just My Opinion- "The commissioners have voted on it and it's done. These are the commissioners that have been voted in by ALL the Columbia County residents, so if you don't like it, then vote for someone else next time."- JMO-Well almost all of them did, Why did Commissioner Charles Allen not vote??? You ran for office Charles, sometimes you need to make the tough decisions and take a stand one way or the other. Very weak, casper milk toast weak! Imagine telling your boss at work " I just didn't feel like doing it! You would be gone by the end of the day. Also, contrary to popular belief, AP doesn't have money growing on trees. They are very prudent with the funds and allocate very deliberately. The concession stand operation is run by some very dedicated parents who have supported and gave back to the sports programs for years. And Finally, John Q is right on the money!

BanjoStang
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BanjoStang 05/19/11 - 03:01 pm
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Just My Opinion - Wow, talk

Just My Opinion - Wow, talk about being sick and tired of hearing rants....

Pot, meet kettle.

It is obvious that there is some type of axe to grind here against Prep.

Have a nice day.

MrsSmith
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MrsSmith 05/19/11 - 08:56 pm
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There's certainly a lot more

There's certainly a lot more to this than most of you understand.
Prep wants to host at least 20 night events on these fields that are on top of several Springlakes neighbors. Most of these aren't football - they're soccer and track. The compromise Prep offered wasn't even close to what Ron Thigpen has suggested. And Prep NEVER came to Springlakes with a possible compromise. Note I said NEVER. Prep has tried to portray Springlakes as a neighborhood who wants to keep sweet children from playing football - NO, that's not true. We have ONLY opposed Augusta Prep having lights to that they could play dozens of night game each year. If you want to see how close the fields are you should go to the fields at Prep and look or visit the neighbors on Quail Springs Drive. Until you've done that you have NO right judge.

Willow Bailey
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Willow Bailey 05/19/11 - 09:25 pm
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Why not respect the people's

Why not respect the people's right to protect the quiet enjoyment of their property? Augusta Prep has survived all these years without the lights and they will continue to do so. Jack Hall's comments are disappointing, but he is also on the way out of town.

evans14
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evans14 05/19/11 - 10:04 pm
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Yes, Augusta Prep has gone 50

Yes, Augusta Prep has gone 50 years without lights, but they also went a while without computers too. Things change, and in order for Augusta Prep to grow, a few people may need to sacrifice silence for a few hours a year. What if Da Vinci couldn't make art because the neighbors didn't like the smell of paint? What if Bach couldn't compose because the neighbors didn't like the noise? What if Edison couldn't invent because the neighbors didn't like the light? We would have a crayon Mona Lisa, a silent symphony, and we would be living in the dark.

MrsSmith
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MrsSmith 05/19/11 - 10:11 pm
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Please Evans 14, Augusta Prep

Please Evans 14, Augusta Prep will survive without lights on Friday nights. After all, they have plenty of options. If football is this important to Augusta Prep, they'll play anywhere. After all, isn't that what football is all about. The field doesn't matter, the surroundings aren't important - it's man against man. Given that, the only reason for lighs is for the fun o watching the cute cheerleaders.

evans14
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evans14 05/19/11 - 10:23 pm
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Mrs Smith, I watched Tuesdays

Mrs Smith, I watched Tuesdays meeting on the Columbia County website and the High School administrator from Prep said that they have been trying other options and none of them worked out.

Willow Bailey
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Willow Bailey 05/19/11 - 10:28 pm
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A compromise does seem in

A compromise does seem in order. How about giving Prep the lights, and in the grand spirit of showing personal understanding to the residents of Springlakes, bring in sound effects and light up the backyards of those in favor of the lights and Jack Hall's yard for the same number of hours on off season nights. Then everyone will have the same experience and understanding will be shared by all concerned.
I have no axe with Prep, enjoyed their school for many years. Thank you.

MrsSmith
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MrsSmith 05/19/11 - 10:35 pm
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Evans14 and all the others

Evans14 and all the others who think they have the facts but they don't: There are other options for Prep to have nightime FOOTBALL games. They just don't like those options. Instead they want night football games, soccer games and track meets. If you haven't bothered to check out these fields and their proximity to the neighborhood please do. NO ONE would want this. Just because other fields may be close to neighbors doesn't make this one right. And no other field has neighbors THIS close. Remember: Two wrongs don't make a right!
Perhaps if AP only wanted night football and had not decided to ignore the 1997 promise not to have lights it would have been a different story. Once more: No one is against AP student playing football. We just don't want 20 sporting events blasting in our backyards.
That's not unreasonable and we are supporting AP. Get real and stop listening to people who don't have the facts. Be bigger than that.

evans14
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evans14 05/19/11 - 10:43 pm
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Whatever, this arguing isn't

Whatever, this arguing isn't getting anything done anyway. Its already been voted on and there's nothing we can do to change it. Whatever happens now is up to Springlakes and Prep.

Col Cty Citizen
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Col Cty Citizen 05/20/11 - 08:07 am
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These posts are similar to

These posts are similar to the meetings that happened about this issue in that the Springlakes residents misrepresented the facts as they continue to do, they never acknowledged that the fields were there before their homes were built, and just as Mrs. Smith keeps showing up in these comments, at the meetings Prep had large crowds of support while the neighbors had a loud few. Unfortunately the loud few included former Commissioner Tommy Mercer who lives by the fields, and his influence on the Commission changed things.
Remember, we are talking about a school with a MUCH smaller population than the public schools, and a school who with a limited budget and no tax dollars was willing to be a good neighbor and spend a lot more for lights that would have "no more spillage than a street lamp" into these few yards - and that is if there were NO buffer at all. There is already a significant buffer, and Prep agreed to add more trees, etc.
Prep met with the neighbors at their clubhouse at the very beginning of this process. At the first meeting when this issue went to the Commission and a compromise was suggested by Mr. Thigpen, Mr. Mercer immediately said Springlakes would not entertain ANY compromise. So, Prep still worked on one, working with the Commissioners. Prep offered MANY adjustments, but 34 hours a year max. was too much. Whether it was for football, soccer, or track doesn't really matter when you realize it was for 34 hours maximum per year. I wished I lived in one of the houses by the fields. I would have gladly supported the lights and thoroughly enjoyed supporting the team. Unbelievable selfishness shown by unneighborly neighbors and then honored by our commissioners ignoring their own zoning committee who were in favor of approval. Pretty sad.

john.q.publius
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john.q.publius 05/20/11 - 08:11 am
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Wow..."dozens of home games."

Wow..."dozens of home games." I wonder if anyone can look at a huge AAAAA school like Evans or Greenbrier and come up with "dozens" of home games on their schedule. A simple check of Evans High School's website shows a total of 8 home varsity soccer games, 4 track meets that start at 4 pm instead of 9 am (4 TOTAL, regardless of location), and 6 home football games. Add them all up, and you get only 18 days when Evans could possibly be using their lights (all of their track meets are actually away, so you really only have a total possible of 14, but I'm trying to make it look as bad as possible to support the idea that it would be constant lights and noise). So, somehow, little ol' Augusta Prep, with their 200 high school students, is going to come up with "dozens" of home athletic events, when Evans High School, a AAAAA powerhouse with multiple region championships and a slate of local teams dying to get a piece of them, can only come up with 18.

As far as the location of the houses, it was the home builders who decided where to site the homes, and the home buyers who decided to buy them. The school was sitting right there, with its soccer field (now soccer/football field) right over the backyard fence, when those folks bought their homes. It would be really great if both sides of this issue could sit down and find a way for both of their needs and interests to be met. I have the feeling that most people would not choose to live next to a school that was actively being a bad neighbor, and that the school must currently do everything it can to be a good neighbor to those who chose to buy a house right next to the school. If that were not the case, then I would think that the neighbors would already have chosen to move away from such a blighted location. Therefore, it would seem to me that it would be in the neighborhood's best interest to work to maintain a positive relationship with the school and get some agreements in place, now, to guide the school's behavior in the future.

Again, I say all of this as a fairly disinterested observer. Yes, I have friends and connections with the school but, again, I have no child on their football team and no football "history" of my own. It simply seems to me that the school and neighborhood might benefit from agreeing to the options outlined by Commissioner Thigpen: limit use of lights to 20 nights per year; limit use of lights to no later than 10pm; limit use of lights to games/meets only (no practice under lights). I have the feeling that people living next to Lakeside/Evans/Greenbrier would love to get that deal.

I have no idea what the school is planning to do next, but they might choose one of a number of options that would be less satisfactory to the neighborhood than the options above. If, and I repeat "if," because I have no idea what might come next, but if the school were to file suit against the county and win--which I consider fairly likely, since every single county high school has a lighted field in a residential neighborhood--then the school would be able to install lights and have daily practice until well into the evening hours. Would they do that? I don't think so, but if I lived in Springlakes, I'd rather have a contract guaranteeing that they would not. The school might also use temporary lights, which don't allow for as much control as installed units, thus causing more spillage into surrounding areas. The school might also lose its football program, which they had every right to pursue. You cannot force opponents to play your team. If they have to go to a rented field with no locker rooms or concessions; if they have to play you in the hottest part of an August afternoon in Augusta; if they have to give up their Saturday to play you in the hottest part of an August afternoon in Augusta, then it's entirely possible that opponents stop scheduling games with you, and then you simply don't have a program. And that, it seems to me, goes beyond any conception of what is right in this situation. It is easy to say that some poster on this board knows Prep parents who hate football. The beauty of that situation is that they can choose not have have their children play. But I have heard some very sincere pleas from parents for whom participation in this new program has been tremendously valued by their entire families. Using a backroom method like denying lights, when the stated opposition is to noise (or to football, or to peeing on bushes, or to whatever else has come up on these boards) is not good governance, in my view.

You didn't REALLY just read this big, long rant, did you?!

cavaliersno1
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cavaliersno1 05/22/11 - 06:27 pm
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This is what Augusta Prep

This is what Augusta Prep football is all about!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XA_QETB9bQ

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