James Alverson

Refusing to right a wrong teaches the wrong lesson

Posted February 19, 2012

When the NCHSAA 4A State Basketball playoffs begin on Monday, the brackets will not be correct.

Typically the association puts out a detailed bulletin pre-season known as “The Handbook” that contains all of the rules for eligibility, and playoff qualifications for the year. The handbook goes through pain-staking length to make it very clear what qualifies a team for the playoffs and detail precisely how the seeding process is done, all in an attempt to remove any hint of subjectivity or discretion on the part of any “selection committee”.

This year, for some inexplicable reason, the Association chose to not follow its’ own published rules that it had voted on, passed, and published to the full NCHSAA membership, particularly those concerning wild card berths for the boys 4A playoffs.

As has been detailed on HighSchoolOT.com, wild cards are selected by reportable winning percentage. Panther Creek’s reportable record for a playoff berth is 11-12, High Point Central and South Caldwell (two other teams in the playoffs qualified by wild card) are reported at 10-14 and 10-13 respectively.

Nowhere in the playoff selection and seeding process outlined by this year’s handbook does it say that one wildcard will be selected from the “East” and one from the “West”. In fact, team’s aren’t even divided by region until after the 64 qualifiers have already been selected, so how could you determine where the line for East and West is, but I digress.

Panther Creek appealed the brackets, and the NCHSAA denied the appeal, turning a deaf ear to their own rules about the selection process designed to take “discretion” and subjectivity out of the process.

I can honestly say that I had a tremendous amount of personal and professional respect for the people who operate the NCHSAA on a day-to-day basis, a lot of that respect has been washed away in this fiasco that the Association refuses to make right.

High school athletics are an extension of the classroom. They are designed to be a platform for us as a public or private institution to teach our kids to do the right things. They are a learning environment, a place where students find out there are choices to be made and are rewarded or not accordingly based on those choices.

If you don’t study, you don’t pass. You don’t pass, you don’t play. You don’t play you lose something that you really enjoy doing and the camaraderie that goes along with athletic competition. Indeed some of the best lessons most of us learn in school come on the athletic fields, or in the extra-curricular activities provided that help us to learn real life lessons in a practical way.

I don’t know how we can look at kids in our state right now in sports with any type of moral authority to ask them to do the right things when the administrators governing high school athletics refuses to do the right thing by their own published rules.

According to Panther Creek Athletic Director Todd Schuler Deputy Commissioner of the NCHSAA Que Tucker told him “ that the NCHSAA made an assumption that all schools would understand that basketball qualifiers would be determined as they always have been... and as volleyball and soccer were determined in the fall,"

That was not the outlined process for this year’s playoffs, and obviously no bulletin or further communication went to ALL member institutions as should be the case with every in-season change in the playoff qualifications or rules.

There is no excuse for this.

Commissioner of the NCHSAA Davis Whitfield answered a formal protest by Panther Creek with this statement. “What was voted on and approved was that the NCHSAA staff had the authority to seed the men's and women's basketball playoffs for 2012 on a trial basis by using a process to be determined in conjunction with the North Carolina Basketball Coaches Association," said Whitfield. "When seeding was done on Saturday the President and Secretary of the NCBCA were at the table and at no time questioned the qualification method which included wildcards."

He added "I realize this explanation is not favorable to you and the community of Panther Creek but the NCHSAA staff was given the authority and discretion in conjunction with the NCBCA to determine the seeding process and we approrpriately exercised that authority,"

Discretion in who is in the playoffs and who is out of the playoffs is precisely what was to be taken away from any committee that could be viewed as subjective. There were to be clear cut answers as to who qualified and didn’t. That’s why the rules are pain-stakingly specific. No ambiguity on the process or qualifications.

In this case, the NCHSAA simply chose not to follow their own published rules, and now hide behind the guise of discretion in seeding and “ambiguity” in the rules that doesn’t exist. They claim to do things the way they have always been done, despite the fact that those rules had been expressly changed this year, and communicated to ALL member institutions.

This decision shows a clear lack of regard for the integrity of the NCHSAA, the competition and values that the association vows it espouses (Fairness, equality, integrity and character).

There must be a full investigation into why the process was not clearly communicated with ALL member institutions if that is what happened. However, it appears that the process was clearly communicated, and the association simply chose not to follow it, which means that there should be a full investigation into why that was the case as well.

The integrity of a storied organization like the NCHSAA is not something to take lightly, and that is precisely what it appears the current administration is intent on doing since they refuse to make things right by their own published rules. Integrity is important, I'd argue the most important thing we can teach our kids through competition. Much of the integrity of the NCHSAA is lost today.

I am tremendously disappointed in the lack of response by the Commissioner and others at the Association when their own rules were brought to their attention. They still chose not to follow them. When the playoffs start Monday without the Panther Creek boys in the 4A bracket, it will be a sad day for high school sports in this state.

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  • 79Coach Feb 20, 2012

    Your assumption is that the NCHSAA cares about making the correct decision. Most of their decisions are political. If you have a policy, it would make sense to follow it. If the policy is bad, it would make sense to change it. Common sense and doing what is right seems to be in short supply in Chapel Hill.

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