The Georgia High School Association, the governing body of high school athletics, may have new leadership very soon. In a surprising move, the GHSA Board of Trustees voted 5-3 to recommend terminating the contract of Executive Director, Gary Phillips. Mr. Phillips has offered his resignation if the GHSA honors his contract that would allow him to be paid through the 2017-2018 school year. A called Executive Committee meeting is scheduled for March 6 to consider accepting his resignation.
According to the GHSA website, Gary Phillips began his tenure as Executive Director in 2014. Mr. Phillips is responsible for the day to day operations of the organization, determining student eligibility, by-law interpretations, as well as other duties. Prior to the promotion to Executive Director, Gary Phillips served as Assistant Executive Director. Since his tenure began, there have been a number of prominent mishaps and situations that have gotten the attention of school administrators, high school sports fans throughout the state, and state legislators. Among the most prominent gaffe includes a known problem, that went uncorrected, with the basketball goals at last year’s state championship games. Another issue that is being ignored by the GHSA, according to critics, is the topic of athlete transfers. During this past football season, several high profile athletes transferred within a matter of weeks to play for the Grayson Rams. Some allege the transfers were the result of recruiting, which violates GHSA rules. Grayson went on to win the state championship. Some say the governing body refuses to adequately address the escalating problem. Whatever the cause of the dismissal by the Board, Mr. Phillips has supporters and detractors. Today, the detractors on the Board of Trustees won the day.
According to the minutes of the latest Trustees meeting, it’s the action of state legislators that has the Board making a preemptive sacrifice to save the organization. Earlier this year, elected officials in both the Georgia House of Representatives and the Senate sponsored legislation to abolish the GHSA and create a replacement organization to govern high school athletics in the state. Six officials in both chambers sponsored their respective bills. It is unclear whether the measures will make it to the Governor’s desk for his signature. However, just the mere threat of replacement appears to be enough to cause the organization to act. According to the minutes, “During the executive session, the Trustees discussed the pending legislation in the house and senate and the offer by the sponsors of the bills to withdraw the legislation if Executive Director Gary Phillips resigned.” Mr. Phillips agreed as long as the GHSA honored his contract.
House Bill 415 and Senate Bill 203 can be found at the Georgia General Assembly legislative website. Both bills contain similar language, and a summary of the proposed law reads, “A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Chapter 2 of Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to elementary and secondary education, so as to provide for the designation of a nonprofit organization to govern high school athletics in this state; to provide for definitions; to provide for a governing structure; to provide requirements for a board of directors; to provide for a representative assembly; to provide for a public liaison advisory committee; to provide for due process and appeals; to provide for amendments to the bylaws; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.”
Whether you support the actions of the Board of Trustees or not, a strong message has been sent to the leadership of the GHSA. Change must occur. The Executive Committee will now decide if that change must include terminating the employment of its Executive Director. Under new leadership, perhaps a new course will be taken by the GHSA to satisfy its many constituents across the state.