Travel still a factor for Houston schools

WARNER ROBINS — Travel considerations won’t create quite the problems they did under their old region, but the teams at Houston County, Northside and Warner Robins will log plenty of miles under a four-year realignment plan unveiled Wednesday by the GHSA.

The organization’s realignment committee placed those three schools in Region 1-AAAA for the school year beginning in August of 2010 and ending in May of 2014.

“I’m not surprised,” Houston County athletics director Greg Robinson said. “They could have sent us anywhere. Since we’re already part of Region 1-AAAAA, I guess it was natural they would group us there again.”

Houston County, Northside and Warner Robins will be joined in the region by Bainbridge, Hardaway, Harris County, Lee County, Northside-Columbus and Thomas County Central.

The average distance from Warner Robins to the six schools in proposed Region 1-AAAA is 111 miles. By contrast, the International City sits 120 miles from the locations of the Region 1-AAAAA schools.

Bainbridge and TCC are clearly beyond the GHSA’s 100-mile rule. The others are close to the cutoff, depending on the exact criteria used in the measurement.

“It’s a tough situation,” said former Warner Robins coach and reclassification committee member Robert Davis. “You have two schools that are very far away and it makes it hard to put them in a region. I think this was our only option.”

The rule forbids schools separated by at least 100 miles from competing on a school night. It’s not typically an issue for football (although it could be for schools that share a stadium), but it creates real scheduling problems for the other sports.

“It’s not a great situation,” Warner Robins AD Bryan Way said.

Travel factors into revenue, as well. The farther fans have to travel — even for football — the less likely they are to make the trip. A nine-team region would leave the county schools with two open dates for non-region competition. Because travel considerations will affect gates, Way said he would like to lock up a local school to help generate good revenue. He’ll also look to teams out of the current 1-AAAAA, “cause they’ll all need to pick up some games.”

Robinson also said scheduling a local school for football will be a priority.

“Veterans will be playing a region schedule. There’s Perry, too. It’s be nice to get a little in-county rivalry going that would have a good gate,” he said. “Otherwise, I’ll probably look for another quad-A team. In case there’s a tiebreaker, you want to have that covered.”

Beyond football, the Columbus-area schools have distinguished themselves as soccer, baseball and softball powers. Lee County is also traditionally one of the top teams in AAAA baseball.

Northside AD Conrad Nix was unavailable for comment for this story.

Schools have until Dec. 15 to appeal for a lateral transfer to another region in the same class. The final regions will voted on in an executive committee meeting on Jan. 10. The committee will also vote to change the reclassification cycle back to two years instead of the four years they recently voted for.