David Mitchell commentary: Marion County wants its fair share

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comApril 9, 2014 

It was fun covering Marion County’s run to a state football championship in the fall.

It was fun because, despite the school’s low population coming from rural Buena Vista, Ga., it had captured the attention and excitement of the entire town.

Home games on Friday nights became an event to be witnessed. The team’s semifinals win drew a crowd as big as many I had seen at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium. After the game, it was next to impossible to find the individuals I wanted to interview inside of the growing horde of well-wishers on the field.

The excitement continued as the Eagles traveled to the Georgia Dome, where they defeated Charlton County in the Class A public state championship. They sold $27,000 in pre-sale tickets and one full side of the lower bowl at the Dome was filled with red- and white-clad supporters.

I share all of that to address this:

In a story by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it is reported that Class A schools individually earned significantly less than their higher-classification counterparts. In fact, Marion County earned the least — $16,870, $10,000 less than it provided to the two-day event’s total ticket sales.

Meanwhile, Norcross and North Gwinnett earned nearly $42,000 apiece from the $438,264 total payout.

The reason is simple.

The payout distribution was not altered when the executive committee voted for a public private split, meaning the 16 percent Class A got would be divided among the two new classifications. Private would get 8 percent; public would get 8 percent.

“That means when they got an extra chance for a championship, there would be recognition that there would be less revenue,” GHSA executive director Ralph Swearngin told the AJC.

Fair enough.

If someone wants to split a piece of pie with their brother, the five other friends shouldn’t be required to give up some of theirs just to keep everyone happy.

That said, Marion County fans paid to see Marion County. Shouldn’t the school at least get back what it put into the pot?

That is the argument being made by Marion County principal Glenn Tidwell, who is proposing that Class A get 24 percent of the pot. That would mean approximately 6 percent for each private and public finalist.

Not coincidentally, Marion County’s $27,000 in ticket sales comes out to about 6 percent of the $438,264 pot.

The proposal is likely to be met with plenty of resistance from the higher classifications and faces a steep climb for approval.

But when Class AA schools are earning nearly double Class A — $33,000 compared to $17,000 — it’s certainly worth another look.

Marion County may be small, but its fanbase wasn’t.

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