FORSYTH, Ga. - Before the Georgia High School Association executive committee's vote Monday on adopting an isolation policy, Lee Chomskis summed up his state of mind in stark terms.
"I feel like I'm waiting to see if I'll get probation or will be going to prison," said the Evans High School football coach and athletic director.
The sentence was two more years on a bus.
The GHSA voted 33-13 against adding an isolation policy to the GHSA constitution, which means Evans remains in Class AAAAA during the 2002-03 school year, and its teams will log long trips to compete in Region 7-AAAAA.
Had isolation passed, Evans would have asked to drop one classification and join Region 3-AAAA, which includes Richmond and Columbia county high schools, and Statesboro and Burke County high schools.
Before the vote, Burke County principal Chris Henry spoke against isolation, as did Statesboro principal Dale Wilkinson and Buzz Busby, Statesboro's head football coach and athletic director.
"Moving a larger school down will knock a smaller school out of the playoffs. Athletics, whether we admit it or not, is a pure numbers game, and when you do away with the integrity of those numbers, you're doing away with the classification system," Busby said.
"We can talk academics all we want, but the bottom line in our profession is how many games you win. I can have every player on my football team making Cs or Bs, and if I go 0-10, I'm looking for a job."
A counter-argument was presented by Evans principal Don Brigdon, Evans athletic boosters president Dale Sickles and Columbia County School Board member Lee Muns.
Evans was reclassified as AAAAA for 2000-01, and with no other local programs in that classification, Evans joined Region 4-AAAAA, which consists of suburban Atlanta schools.
That forced Evans athletic teams to travel an average of 320.6 miles to road contests, which resulted in travel expenditures increasing from $6,000 to $54,000 during the first year in the region.
Additionally, Evans athletes were missing class and returning home at late hours following road games.
On Aug. 23, Columbia County School Superintendent Tommy Price asked the GHSA for relief, and at the GHSA fall meeting, the executive committee voted 36-9 to approve isolation as a topic for discussion.
Chomskis offered an explanation why those numbers flip-flopped Monday in Forsyth.
"I think this shows the stance of the Georgia High School Association and its members. They're not concerned about academics," he said. "It goes along with the Statesboro coach's comments - it's about winning games and job security. Granted, I want to win as bad as anybody does, but not at the expense of our student's safety and education."
A comparison of Evans High School's current region (4-AAAAA) and Region 7-AAAAA, where Evans will compete during the 2003-04 school years.
Starr's Mill, Riverdale, Newnan, Mount Zion-Jonesboro, Morrow, Eagle's Landing, McIntosh, Stockbridge, East Coweta, Lovejoy, Jonesboro, Fayette County, North Clayton, Forest Park, Henry County
Average round-trip for road games: 320.6.
Region 7-AAAAA, Opponents: Cedar Grove, Lakeside-DeKalb, Redan, Lithonia, Douglass, Tri Cities, Stephenson
Average round-trip for road games: 270.4.
Average round trip if Evans went to Region 3-AAAA: 61.4 miles.