End the madness

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 1, 2004

The time is now to end the madness.

This past weekend in Raleigh, the NCISAA (North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association) conducted its annual state basketball tournaments in all three divisions. Over its long and distinguished history, these were highly-competitive events that were symbolic of what post-season tournaments are all about – a fair and equal chance for all teams involved to have an opportunity to become a state champion.

To earn an invitation to a state tournament, in any sport, is a salute to a team’s regular season success. While those with better overall records or higher finishes within their respective conferences are rewarded with higher seeds, each team participating in a state tournament enters with identical 0-0 records. It’s a simple matter of survive and advance. The team performing that feat with 100 percent accuracy leaves with the championship trophy.

Dating back to the late 1970’s, I have witnessed several NCISAA state basketball tournaments at numerous venues throughout our great state. I covered the fortunes of our local independent schools in Raleigh, Rocky Mount, Wilson, Fayetteville and Winston-Salem. I’ve witnessed some epic battles on the hardwood; seen average high school students transform into heroes with super human strength and endurance; and was there to feel the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Keeping with the tradition of post-season events, I’ve seen teams with marginally talented players pull off miraculous upsets or come within a tick’s tooth of stunning a heavily favored opponent. When you witness those type games, it’s kind’a like watching the movie Hoosiers where tiny Hickory (Indiana) High School, with a student enrollment of less than 60, pulled off a stunning upset of a large, inner city school in Indianapolis to win the state title.

Unfortunately, the current way of conducting basketball business within the NCISAA will never allow for another &uot;Hickory scenario.&uot; That line of thinking goes against the philosophy listed in the NCISAA code – &uot;that all activities be conducted without discrimination.&uot;

As far as I’m concerned, forcing smaller NCISAA institutions, the majority of which lie in eastern North Carolina, to compete against metro area teams whose rosters resemble a world atlas is discriminatory.

For the sake of Dr. James Naismith, will someone please tell me where it all went wrong?

Whatever happened to patiently waiting for a school’s homegrown talent to mature and become highly competitive? Why is it so important for some schools to go out and stockpile talent instead of building, with pride, from within your established student body – a foundation built upon a decision by parents to send their children to a private school based on academic standing rather than athletics.

Has it boiled down to a simple case of greed? If so, then that piece of state championship hardware these schools just placed in their trophy cases is a tainted slab of aluminum. The price to earn it wasn’t paid with years of blood, sweat and tears in practice while waiting for your homegrown talent to mature, but rather with whose wallet was fatter to bring in blue chip collegiate prospects to play at a small private school.

This current line of thinking cannot continue if the NCISAA is to survive. There’s more than enough greed, shady deals and slight-of-hand deception awaiting at the NCAA and professional levels. There shouldn’t be any rush to introduce those evils to our young men and women.

May I suggest one course of action – for the NCISAA to sub-divide their current system of state basketball tournaments. If a school chooses to go the route of stockpiling talent rather than building their own program, then they meet schools of similar circumstances in post-season play. Ditto for those schools that choose the traditional route of playing the hand they’re dealt, improving that hand on the practice court rather than drawing all new cards – each an &uot;Ace.&uot;

If the NCISAA brass chooses to continue along their current path, then I call on all schools that compete by traditional standards to immediately withdraw from the Association and begin their own organization – one where the &uot;I&uot; doesn’t stand for Independent, but rather for Integrity.