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COLUMN: Irwin County and the GHSA pull the ‘Ole Switcheroo’

The following article is an editorialized opinion piece and reflects the views of only the author and not necessarily those of AllOnGeorgia.

While playoff baseball is in the air, Georgia’s Single A-Public division has hit a significant roadblock. The statewide edict from the GHSA that stated, “…2nd round playoff series has been suspended by legal injunction until further notice,” caused a total shut down for the remaining participants, including those that were already on long road trips to face opponents as far as five hours away.

Irwin County coaches threw a wrench in the power ratings in the waning days of April by filing an appeal to the GHSA regarding a March 10th game played between Lanier County and Charlton County. After a win, Charlton County self-reported a pitch-count violation – by exactly two pitches, after receiving no courtesy alert from the GHSA appointed Pitch Count Monitor (PCM)- and, after lengthy discussion with GHSA Executive Director, Dr. Robin Hines, was informed on March 15th that the penalty for the violation would be a warning. While a $250 fine and two-game suspension for the offending coach is the maximum penalty, the absence of any alert from the PCM (as directed in GHSA training) was enough to convince Hines and other GHSA officials that the warning was an appropriate penalty.

With emails confirming that the situation had been resolved, according to court papers, Charlton County went on to finish the regular season with a 14-2 Region record, tying them with Irwin County. The Region title went to Charlton County as Irwin’s only two region losses were at the hands of Charlton. This is where things got a little dicy. In a covert operation, Irwin Head Coach Drew Tankersley began an email campaign to convince Hines to overturn his March 15th ruling. Tankersley pleaded his case while specifically asking the GHSA to conceal his identity. “Please don’t throw us under the bus with the team in question by allowing them to know we sent this letter,” wrote Tankersley. The Irwin County plea to “make this situation right and reward Lanier County with a win in that game by forfeit” was repeated multiple times in multiple emails over the following few days. During this process, Hines abides by Tankersley’s plan to conceal the discussion and request from any Charlton County coaches or officials.

Between April 18th and April 19th, Pam Thompson, a GHSA employee, and the Assistant Executive Director, Ernie Yarbrough, both responded to Tankersley that the matter had been “…thoroughly investigated last month by Mr. Yarbrough and has been resolved.” Yarbrough went so far as to state, “this decision was made jointly by Dr. Hines and myself, and will stand as final.”

While the matter seemed to be resolved, Tankersley brought in reinforcements with the Irwin County Athletic Director, Buddy Nobles. All the while, Charlton County remains in the dark as forces conspire against them to reverse the decision and strip them of both the win and thus, the Region 2A Title. Along with the title came the coveted Power Rating and beneficial seeding. Meanwhile, according to emails and testimony from witnesses, Tankersley lets it slip that the plan had been brewing for several weeks to sabotage the decision and pull the rug out from under Charlton County. “We understand that it was ‘ruled on more than a month ago’. We, as well as the other coaches in our region, knew about it before y’all did. We all just held on to it in case we needed it in a situation like we do now.” And just like that, the fix was in.

Irwin County then, on April 23rd, filed a document known as the Irwin County High School Baseball Power Rating Appeal Letter. While this document eventually accomplishes exactly the opposite of its intended title, to improve the power rating for Irwin County, it does grant their true desire, to overturn the original GHSA March 15th decision to issue a warning to Charlton County for their inadvertent pitch count violation. The problem becomes bigger for the GHSA when you consider the fact that, between April 19th and April 23rd, Irwin County and the GHSA sat on the matter without alerting Charlton County. Then, at 9:01 am, Irwin County files their official appeal. At 11:20 am, Dr. Hines makes the crushing phone call to Charlton County Principal Josh Howard that an “appeal” had been filed and that he had sustained the appeal.

For Charlton County, more than a month had passed, the matter had been resolved, a Region title had been won and playoff plans were being made. Irwin County, with the help of the GHSA, changed all that. In one fell swoop, the Region Title was gone, and their seeding fell from 2nd, to 5th. Sweet revenge for Tankersley and the Irwin County Indians, whose last game against the Charlton County Indians was a bitter 2-8 loss.

With only minutes to spare before the 12:00 pm appeal deadline, Charlton County watched as things slipped away to the cunning move of Hines and Tankersley. However, Dr. Josh Howard, Athletic Director Jesse Crews and Charlton coach Thad Marchman had one final card to play- take the issue to court and allow an impartial judge to rule on the matter.

And that is exactly what happened. Civil Action 18V-043, the case of Charlton County School District vs Georgia High School Association was heard by the honorable Judge Andrew Spivey who listened carefully and decided to place a temporary pause on further baseball action until the matter can be settled. Attorneys for the school system laid out a point-by-point description of their client’s position, specifically that the GHSA constitution allows a 7 day window for filing appeals. Irwin County did not meet that window.

 

Judge Spivey ruled in favor of Charlton County and issued his statement that, “the GHSA is restrained and enjoined from granting Lanier County a forfeit in the March 10th contest against a Charlton County…” This decision went on to require the 6-3 victory be reinstated for Charlton County and that all seeding be returned according to GHSA rules.

“Additionally, the GHSA shall be required to play the remaining games as scheduled, beginning on May 3rd, 2018.”

In other words, play ball!

Order on Interloc. Injunc. - filed (1)
Villeda Concrete

Casie Bryant is the NW Georgia Regional Manager for AllOnGeorgia.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Diane Conner

    May 4, 2018 at 2:49 am

    Politics, always prevails, I’ve said many times, not what you know, but who you know !

  2. Brad

    May 4, 2018 at 11:44 am

    Its pretty simple, Charlton dont break the rules and everything will be fine. So, girl bye with your crybaby piece lol

  3. Follow all rules and regulations

    May 4, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    “after lengthy discussion with GHSA Executive Director, Dr. Robin Hines, was informed on March 15th that the penalty for the violation would be a warning.”

    So let’s get this straight, former Charlton County Principle, Dr. Robin Hines, AKA, GHSA Executive Director chose to ignore the stated penalty for violating the pitch count rule (forfeiture of game) and give his former high school a warning? And Irwin county is corrupt? Irwin county called BS and appealed. GHSA committee agreed. No other high school in the state receives warnings for violating the pitch count rule. If a team need only state that they accidentally violated a rule and only warnings were assessed, no team would follow any rules. This is a clear cut case: Charlton violated the pitch count. Penalty for such is $250/2 game suspension for coach and forfeiture of the game. You don’t run to the locally elected judge and file a good ole boy injunction. Talk about corrupt!

    • Follow all rules and regulations

      May 4, 2018 at 1:39 pm

      Principal not principle. LOL

  4. Bill

    May 4, 2018 at 5:42 pm

    What you fail to report is he fact that Miller Cove was caught in the same situation and was force to forfeit their win. Their coach was suspended the two game. The only reason Charlton wasn’t is because their AD is on the state board of trustees

  5. Tom

    May 4, 2018 at 10:50 pm

    It just so happens that the “impartial” judge ruling in favor of Charlton County HS was elected by the people of Charlton County.

    No, that doesn’t smell at all… I mean it isn’t as if rural south Georgia judges have a legacy of bending the law to the preferences of a local mob mentality.

  6. Ryan Morgan

    May 5, 2018 at 11:44 am

    He was actually elected by the people of Ware, Pierce, Brantley, Coffee, Charlton and Bacon. And he lives in Waycross. I’d say that’s pretty impartial.

  7. Joe Cumbee

    May 5, 2018 at 2:55 pm

    It sounds like you are trying to make a swipe to demonize the Irwin Coach and make him sound like a thug. His grandmother taught me in the 1st grade, one of the kindest teachers I had. I taught his father and Aunt in high school, some of the most honest humble persons to be found anywhere. I watched Drew grow up in church, so I can vouch for the entire family and I would assure you they are not underhanded or devious. As they say, the apple does not fall far from the tree.(a good apple tree in this case). Please research when the appeal was made, and I believe it will be found that it was on the day the GHSA requested it. Sometimes it is hard to gather all the facts when writing a column from over 300 miles away from the scene of what really happened.. Please remember that Trion is not the only ones that have lost money because of GSHA rulings. In ICHS’s case just last yr in football playoffs.

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