MOULTRIE — Bowing to what became a torrent of opposition, the Georgia High School Association on Monday reversed its field and voted not to move state championship football games to neutral sites this fall.

The GHSA’s executive committee had voted unanimously in August to allow executive director Ralph Swearngin to choose neutral sites for the championship games in all five classifications.

But on Monday, the committee voted 30-15 in favor of a plan that would allow the higher seeded team to play host to the quarterfinal and championship games this season.

The decision is likely to be revisited before the 2007 championship games are held.

Schools and individuals, especially from the southern part of the state, have been outspoken in the opposition to the moving the games to neutral sites. Some saw the original decision as precursor to ultimately moving the championship games to the Georgia Dome.

The Dome has been the site of the state semifinals for a number of years and will continue in that capacity this year.

Georgia is one of just six states that does not play its championship football games at neutral sites.

Colquitt County High Principal Bob Jones led Region 1-AAAAA’s opposition to the August decision to move the games to neutral sites, sending letters and e-mails to schools around the state urging them to tell their GHSA representatives not to vote for the plan.

Similar efforts were held throughout the state. Jones and a number of other administrators and coaches – including Randy McPherson of Lowndes High’s two-time Class AAAAA champion football team– said they felt the opportunity to host a game was beneficial to the communities involved.

Westside of Macon coach Robert Davis told The Macon Telegraph that “we’re not playing pro football here. It’s important to communities to host a football game.”

The original decision calling for neutral sites came on the heels of complaints of inadequate seating, rest room facilities, concession stands and standing-room-only areas at some smaller stadiums.

It was noted that schools often sold tickets for more than the seating capacity of their stadiums.

In the Monday meeting, an alternate plan to the neutral sites proposal was presented that said if each school in the final had adequate facilities to play host to the championship game, then a coin flip would be determined to decide the host.

Under that proposal, if the higher seeded team did not have adequate facilities, the lower seed would become the home team.

If neither team could hold the game, Swearngin would designate a site.

That proposal was replaced by one that states that if the higher seed were unable to host, it would be given the opportunity to find another site.

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