STATEMENT OF GARY PHILLIPS
(March 6, 2017)
During my sixteen years at the Georgia High School Association – including the last three as Executive Director – my focus has been on providing the best possible experience for the student-athletes and other student-participants at the GHSA’s 450-plus member schools. Although, as with any organization, we have not been perfect, we have treated any missteps as opportunities to learn and improve. Overall, I am quite proud of what we have accomplished.
As many of you may know, the GHSA recently commissioned a survey that was sent to every GHSA member school. The goal of the survey was to help the GHSA understand what it is doing well, understand what it can do better, and identify any other concerns or issues important to its members. Ironically, despite the upheaval caused by the assertions of a tiny – but vocal – minority, the vast majority of the GHSA’s member schools approve of the job that the GHSA is doing. Of the 339 schools that responded to the survey, almost 80% indicated that they “agreed” or “strongly agreed” – the two highest rating options – that they are satisfied overall with their membership in the GHSA. Although the GHSA will always strive to satisfy every school and although there is always room for improvement, this extraordinarily positive response tells me that we are doing the right things.
The prevailing societal and political issues make this era as challenging as any in the GHSA’s history. The overall experience of Georgia’s student-athletes is not served by turning a blind-eye to the issues of athlete recruitment and eligibility-related fraud. The student-athlete experience is not served by pandering politicians who seek to disband the GHSA and replace it with a governmental body whose bylaws prohibit consideration of any geographic or residency-related factors in determining student-athlete eligibility. It is not served by personal agendas that diverge from the GHSA’s mission. And, it is not served by knee-jerk opposition to the GHSA because of some perceived slight arising from past GHSA rulings or decisions. The only way that an organization like the GHSA can work is as a true team, where every person – both leadership and support personnel – has the respect and trust of every other person.
Unfortunately, that is not currently the case within the GHSA. I have therefore agreed, subject to terms tentatively negotiated with the GHSA Board of Trustees, to retire at the end of this school year. Because of the respect that I have for the GHSA and the faith that I have in the job that we are doing, my initial inclination was to fight to the bitter end. This, however, would benefit no one, including the student-athletes whom we are supposed to serve and my family, who has been devastated by the events of the past two weeks.
I appreciate the overwhelming support I have received throughout Georgia and across the country from other high school associations. Thank you for sixteen great years.