Mini-bailout? GHSA to return $245,000 to Georgia’s high school athletic programs for next year

GHSA: Quarter of million dollars back to members next year

GHSA: Quarter of million dollars back to members next year

Every penny counts in the tough economy for the Georgia High School Association.

The state’s governing body for high school athletics has made two financial concessions for next year in order to help its members.

The GHSA will waive membership dues and increase coverage of catastrophic insurance from 80- to 100-percent for the 2010-2011 athletic calendar.

On the surface, the GHSA’s gift resembles a small and nearly forgettable donation, saving each school a total of $340 to $825 for the year. However, when the numbers of the 431 members are calculated and added together, it projects to be lump sum of $245,000 in decreased revenue for the GHSA next year.

“Our feeling was that a lot of our schools are talking about ways of cutting back in their athletic programs,” said Ralph Swearngin, the GHSA’s executive director. “Some schools were going to maybe do away with their junior varsity programs, while others are limiting the amount of travel they can do.

“We were trying to do a little thing to try to help them along, so they can keep their programs going along … If our schools don’t have sports programs, then our office (GHSA) doesn’t exist.”

“It’s not going to solve their budget problems, but hopefully it is going to help.”

The two concessions, both proposed and approved by the GHSA’s executive committee, earned rave reviews by athletic directors from metro Atlanta schools:

  • Riverwood’s Jeff Holloway: “In the economic times that we are in, and the crisis that schools face just fielding teams with qualified coaches, this is a great gesture to show the GHSA has the best interest of the member schools in mind … we have people running the GHSA that are alert to the financial crisis and are managing the money well there.”
  • Campbell’s Alan Nicely: “It is the right thing to do. It is not a really large sum of money in the grand scheme of things, but does show that the GHSA is very aware of how many schools are struggling to pay bills.”
  • Mill Creek’s Gary Long: “This has been a goal of the GHSA for many years. Its financial base is strong, and they were able to do this for all members. It is very much appreciated by (everyone).”
  • Marist’s Tommy Marshall: “It’s a great step by the GHSA to try to tell all the schools that ‘We are here for you. We’re trying to help each one of you on your budget, too.’”
  • Pope’s Steven Craft: “I think that it is a great idea. Every school is truly feeling the effects of the economy. The toughest part of high school athletics is finding the funding. If the counties and local schools do not have (it), then the burden is being passed along to the parents and booster clubs.”

What do you think about the GHSA giving back nearly $250,000 next year to its members?

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What’s the breakdown of money? Class A schools pay $120 for membership dues and $220 for 20-percent of catastrophic insurance premiums. In Class AAAAA, the state’s largest division, the costs increase to $300 and $525.

How can the GHSA afford to forfeit a quarter of million dollars? They are counting on increased revenue at playoffs games and new corporate sponsors, among other things.

The private organization has generated gross revenues between $4.2 and 3.6 million in each of the last two years. The GHSA earns income from playoff tickets, corporate sponsorships, membership dues, coaching clinic fees, officials’ camp fees, officials’ registration fees, publication sales, vendor sales, fines and interest on financial investments.

Perhaps the biggest confidence-booster is stronger attendance numbers this year. Based on the fall sports, led by football, and the early returns on winter sports, the GHSA said fan support is nearly back to the fruitful days of two years ago. Last year, revenues were down in all sports.

“I think we’re very encouraged with what we’ve seen so far this year,” Swearngin said. “We’re still looking for ways to cut costs, but we’re seeing that people are still supporting high school sports. That’s good thing.”

However, if the economy worsens next year at the same time as the concessions, the GHSA has a backup plan. It will dip into its reserve fund of $2.4 million to pay the bills.

“We’ve never had to touch our reserve fund before, and hopefully we never will … but it’s there if we have to go in that direction,” Swearngin said.

One comment Add your comment


April 20th, 2010
10:52 am

Great move by the GHSA – Everyone is pitching in during these tough times! Kudos to leadership and executive membership of the association.