‘Out of control‘ GHSA picks up powerful opponents at state Capitol

Republican state Senator Jeff Mullis is the Chair of the Senate Rules Committee, which controls what legislation is voted on in the state Senate. (Rahul Bali/WABE)

Over the years, issues with the Georgia High School Association have been a common complaint among state lawmakers and their constituents.

The GHSA is an independent nonprofit that oversees sports and extracurricular activities for 465 public and private schools, including football, cheerleading and theater.

GHSA earns the majority of its income by running tournaments, competitions and playoffs, along with corporate and vendor partnerships. It also earns money from dues and broadcast rights.

There have been a number of legislative efforts to take a closer look and even regulate the GHSA, including a 2019 state Senate Study Committee on Athletic Associations.

Some smaller rural schools have recently complained that they’re not being heard when it comes to which schools they must compete with in sports.

Now the organization has picked up some powerful opponents in the State Capitol.

Republican Senator Jeff Mullis spoke about it on the state Senate floor on Friday. (27:00 mark of Senate chamber video)

“Sometimes you produce legislation to make a better Georgia, sometimes you produce legislation to get people’s attention.” he said. “We’re trying to get them to understand that their goal should be to make sure high school systems are treated fairly. With their arrogancy, they are not.”

Mullis’ new bill would create a new high school association.

Senate Bill 328 would allow the state school board to pick a nonprofit organization to oversee high school athletics for public schools. Private schools could also join. It would not be a state agency under SB 328. The bill also deals with the ability of high school athletes to transfer between schools.

In an interview in his state Capitol office this week, Mullis argued that smaller public schools are being mistreated, specifically when it comes to their schedule for competitions.

Mullis says he is frustrated with what he calls an “out of control” organization.

“We’ve tried to talk to them. We had meetings. We tried to have some reason, but it hasn’t worked,” he said. “We have even told them it’s your job to govern this. Not ours.”

GHSA Executive Director Dr. Robin Hines said he does not have a comment on Senate Bill 328 yet.

Other powerful lawmakers that have signed onto to the bill including Senate Pro Tempore Butch Miller and Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan.

Mullis has also filed Senate Bill 334 (Georgia General Assembly – SB 334 (ga.gov)) which would ban public schools from playing in an association that does not have separate regions and playoffs for small private and public schools.

Senate Bills 328 and 334 have both been sent to the Senate Education & Youth Committee.