All we need is a CPA

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 3, 2003

Does the word overkill mean anything?

We can’t come close to convincing the NCAA just to have a simple, four-game national championship series for the sport of football, but yet the state of North Carolina sends 256 teams to the state play-offs. The old 128-team format was just fine with me. Apparently, the NCHSAA (North Carolina High School Athletic Association) brass decided to go totally against the old adage – &uot;if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.&uot;

There was nothing wrong with the way things were done prior to last year. The thought of playing for a state championship within a school’s classification brought a sense of pride to its players, coaches and fans. Now, under the new format, this annual rite of late fall has turned into a watered down version of what it was at one time.

Up until the 2002 season, 32 teams from each of the NCHSAA’s four classifications went to war starting in early November. Five games later, four of those squads stood tall – each withstanding the pressure that always surrounds the post-season and proudly walking away with a state championship plaque hoisted for all their loyal fans to see.

Now we have 64 teams from each classification. The NCHSAA, instead of going to five classifications like they should have done by the turn of the 21st century, now sub-divides the four classes. They use ADM (Average Daily Membership) numbers of each qualifying school to sub-divide the play-offs. The larger schools in each class are grouped together – ditto for the schools with the smaller attendance figures.

For example, Northeastern Coastal Conference members Bertie (an ADM of 1,041), Hertford County (1,120) and Manteo (1,221) are all grouped in the Class 3-A bracket, the smaller of the two Class 3A divisions. The largest eastern school in that bracket is Southern Nash (1,228), who is seeded 12th (below the three Northeastern Coastal teams) with a 4-6 overall record.

Meanwhile, Northampton-West (447) is in the small 1-A bracket while Gates County (644) was aligned with the big boys in the 1-AA class.

Currituck (1,084) and Northeastern (884), both conference foes of Bertie and HCHS, earned berths in the state 2-AA field. Edenton (765), another league member who shared the Northeastern Coastal Conference crown with HCHS, is seeded in the Class 2-A bracket.

There’s no need for any referees in the state play-offs, rather we need a CPA to keep up with all these mind-boggling numbers.

All a team had to accomplish this season was to win four games and they were in the state play-offs. In a few isolated cases, three wins were good enough. Currituck (3-7) was one of those fortunate schools. By some quirk of fate, the Knights were seeded sixth and will host a first round game on Friday vs. Northwood, who, despite their 7-3 record, was seeded 11th.

It’s even worse in the Class 1-A and 1-AA ranks. Basically, all a team has to do to earn a trip to the post-season is to know that the open portion of the helmet faces forward. Of the 64 total teams in these two brackets, nearly half (31) finished the regular season at .500 or below. Three teams, Andrews, North Lincoln and South Stokes (both in the western half of the two brackets) qualified with only one win each. Seven others – Mattamuskeet, Columbia, North Moore, Union, Cherokee, Perquimans and Jordan Matthews – saw their respective seasons extended even though they won only two games each.

What type of message is this sending to our young men, the future leaders of our communities? Are we saying it’s okay to reward a poor performance? What happens when they land jobs in the real world? Will they be rewarded with bonuses when the backhoe they’re operating slices a natural gas line in half, causing a massive fire that wipes out a neighborhood?

The real message here is greed. The NCHSAA can stand on its soapbox and scream to the top of its lungs that this expanded play-off format is for the kids. It’s not. It’s for the money and that, my friends, is the worst reason of them all.