UPDATE: The Wheeler High School basketball team will be now allowed to compete for a national sports title. A long standing rule had blocked any high school team in Georgia from competing for any national sports title. After a social media outcry and online petition, the Georgia High School Sports Association ruled on Wednesday that the team would be allowed to make the trip.
According to GHSA Executive Director Gary Phillips, the Board of Trustees were polled Wednesday evening. They decided to allow Wheeler to play based on a standing Georgia law (HB1241) that says athletes shouldn't be punished for participating outside of the regular season. The decision is not universal. The Executive Committee will have to decide whether or not to change the standing rule during the spring meeting April 13th in Macon.
When 11Alive's Jerry Carnes called Coach Doug Lipscomb just before 5:30 Wednesday night, he hadn't yet heard about the decision. The laid-back coach said simply: "That's great." He said the team is ready to go and now making plans for the April 1st tournament.
MARIETTA, Ga. -- The trophy case is stocked at Wheeler High School.
A basketball season with the promise of more is apparently over. It's replaced by Junior Cameron Jordan's confusion.
"It was very unfair. It was basically them telling us all our hard work was for nothing," he told 11Alive's Jerry Carnes.
With thirty wins and only two losses, Wheeler's boys are state champs for the sixth time. It was enough to win them an invitation to New York to compete against seven other schools considered the best in the nation.
But the Georgia High School Association says no. A long standing rule blocks any high school team in Georgia from competing for any national sports title.
Coach Doug Lipscomb disagrees with the rule: "We're representing Georgia on a national level,and I think that's something that's not going to happen every year."
Students, parents, fans, and supporters from across the country are voicing their outrage on Twitter with the hashtag #LetWheelerIn. Rival schools have even joined in the social media push.
Professional ballplayer Jarrett Jack tweeted, "Don't deny our kids".
An online petition pushing for a chance to play had more than 500 signatures hours after it was posted.
The GHSA isn't budging. There is no official national championship for high school sports. The executive director of GHSA Gary Phillips says this is not the first time one of Georgia's athletic teams has been denied a shot at a national tournament. He doesn't see it as a benefit to the schools...or the state.
"What's the harm in allowing them to play?" Carnes asked him Tuesday afternoon.
"We don't see the purpose in this," he said. "This is not anything but a money maker for the organization purporting this championship."
The school and its supporters are fighting for one more victory.