LEESBURG — Lee County athletic director Rob Williams and football coach Dean Fabrizio both admitted Tuesday’s appeal to the GHSA Reclassification Committee to stay in Class AAAAA was a long shot.
After hearing a 10-minute presentation from Lee County Principal Kevin Dowling, the committee rejected Lee’s appeal and stuck with its initial ruling that placed the Trojans in Class AAAAAA, where they will play as the smallest school in the classification.
“We wanted a chance to be able to appeal what we thought was right,” Fabrizio said. “We knew it was a long shot going into it. Usually these things are not granted, so we have been preparing and planning as if we would be in AAAAAA. That’s what it is, and that’s what we expected.”
In the new classifications for 2014-16 that were released in November, Lee County — a member of Class AAAAA since 2000 — was moved up to Class AAAAAA despite enrollment numbers that many associated with the school didn’t believe warranted a move up in class.
At 1,802 students, Lee County became the smallest Class AAAAAA school, just seven students larger than Class AAAAA’s Winder-Barrow. Langston Hughes has 1,808 students, but the enrollment drastically increases from there with Pope High School coming in at 1,828, a full 20 students more than either Langston Hughes or Lee County.
It’s Pope High School where Lee County administrators believed the line between the two largest classes in the state should have been drawn.
“That seemed like a natural break,” Williams said. “(Downing) gave them the information that we felt needed to be given, but we understand that (the Reclassification Committee) has a tough job. We understand that they can’t make everybody happy. We appreciate that they at least gave us the opportunity to speak.”
Williams said that the committee, which is a subcommittee of the GHSA Executive Committee and comprises 14 members, didn’t give a reason for rejecting the appeal.
Lee County can toss one more Hail Mary in an attempt to stay in Class AAAAA when the full Executive Committee meets in Macon on Tuesday to hear final appeals before the reclassification plan is ratified.
Williams said he is unsure whether Lee County will make another pitch.
“The Reclassification Committee has listened to us twice, and nothing will probably come of (meeting with the Executive Committee),” Williams said. “So at this point we are a proud member of Class AAAAAA, and we will get in there and compete the best we can.”
Lee County will join Region 1-AAAAAA, which consists of Colquitt County, Lowndes County, Tift County and Valdosta. Camden County will play in the region in football only, and it’s on the gridiron where Lee County’s enrollment could put the Trojans at a disadvantage.
Now playing in one of the toughest regions in all of Georgia, the Trojans — who won the Region 1-AAAAA title in football this past fall — will be the small fish in a massive pond.
Lowndes is the eighth biggest school in the state with 2,962 students, which is 1,160 more than Lee County. Other enrollments for Region 1-AAAAAA are Camden County (2,573), Colquitt County (2,346), Tift County (2,099) and Valdosta (1,968).
Also on Tuesday, Thomas County Central was denied its request to play football in Class AAAA, along with the rest of its sports. The Yellow Jackets will continue to play football in Region 1-AAAAA. Cook County, which is currently in Class AA, also appealed its placement in Class AAAA, which was denied by the GHSA.