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Friday, July 18, 2014

KHSAA does many things well, can improve on other things

G. Michael Graham
Over the years, I’ve dealt with several athletic associations.

Out of all of them, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association does a fantastic job. Commissioner Julian Tackett and his staff in Lexington have always done a great job making things media-friendly and getting information in a timely manner.

Communications Director Joe Angolia has especially been wonderful at state tournaments. He replied quickly when I pointed out a mistake in the football records. The records listed Highlands as beating Paducah Tilghman, 27-3 in the 1989 Class 3A title game when it was 7-3 Bluebirds.

Angolia and I spoke at the state softball tournament. Like he said, you can’t please everyone. But the KHSAA staff does the best job possible. You can’t ask for anything more than that.

Here are some other things I feel they’ve done well at over the years.

The Sweet 16:

I have not been to a Sweet 16 State Basketball Tournament yet for either gender.

My work schedule did not let me get down to Bowling Green to cover the Newport Central Catholic girls this past winter.

But I have watched some games on television. From what I’ve seen, the boys tournament at Rupp Arena in Lexington is spectacular. That is why many from around the state go to see it.

If you are fortunate to make it down there, it is also really big. Covington Catholic won it all this year and Campbell County made it down there from the 10th.

I have not always been crazy about single classes. But there is something special about having one state champion. I do not look for the KHSAA to change the format to classes like Indiana did in 1997 for that very reason.

The Football Playoffs:

I know many Highlands and Newport Central Catholic fans do not agree with me on this one. But I still believe the KHSAA is again on target here with six football classes.

The KHSAA has made it so most of the teams make the playoffs. Like I’ve said before, I’d rather see a system where the occasional 0-10 team makes the playoffs as opposed to one where an 8-2 team does not.

The system is also clear about which teams do not make it unlike other states. For example, Tennessee is redoing its format like it seems to have done every year since 2009 when it went to a format of automatic qualifiers and wildcard teams.

In Kentucky, you make the playoffs if you finish in the top four in your district. The only exception is classes that have 32 or even 33 teams. A fifth-place team takes on the winner of a three-team district to fill out the brackets.

Great State Tournament Locations:

The one issue Kentucky has that neighboring states do not is no central location for state tournaments.

That makes things difficult for travel. For example, teams from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Regions have to travel further distances to Lexington than they do to Bowling Green and Owensboro. The opposite holds true for teams from the 15th and 16th Regions.

But despite that, places like Western Kentucky University have served the state well in state tournaments. I even like how the KHSAA is willing to try other locations. For instance, Northern Kentucky University will play host to the girls state basketball tournament in 2016 and 2017. It has been at Western Kentucky for many years.

Now, every organization has room for improvements. Here are some things I’d like to see changed.

Eliminate Temporary Fences at Softball Tournament and allow video replay:

The state softball tournament held at Jack Fisher Park in Owensboro is played at a Men’s Softball Recreational League Park. Therefore, regulation distance, temporary fences are installed there for the tournament.

This unfortunately became a source of controversy in a game between Ashland Blazer and Johnson Central. Johnson Central’s Rachelle Fairchild hit a clear home run to win the game, 2-1. I was standing in the walkway near right field talking to Highlands. We all saw it go over.

But unfortunately for Johnson Central, the fence wiggled while it went over and the umpires did not rotate properly to make the right call. They came together and incorrectly ruled a ground-rule double.

I have umpired baseball and softball on lower levels before and I was sick to my stomach for Fairchild. I’d have felt worse if I saw video taken by Hazard television station reporter Jaime McCracken.

The worst part of the whole thing is the National Federation of High Schools does not allow umpires to have access to video replay. McCracken tried to approach the umpires while the Johnson Central fans yelled in disbelief with the video but was told to back off. This needs to change for the sake of getting calls right. It has benefitted college and pro sports and can do the same for the high school level.

No more All-Tournament Teams:

While in Texas many years ago, I covered a basketball holiday tournament at Anahuac. I asked the tournament director if there would be an all-tournament team.

He said there would be not. We agreed that you win as a team and you lose as one. I feel that high schools should stick with this theme and would not mind if the KHSAA and others disallowed them.

Someone always gets upset when their child or relative does not make the team. I will not mention the school or coach. But I do know of a relative yelling at a coach over that this past season.

For this reason, all-tournament teams are so not worth the headache. It would be the best way to make everyone happy.

G. Michael Graham has covered high school sports for Fort Thomas Matters for two years. He is entering his 17th season this fall. That also includes covering games in Ohio, Tennessee, Alabama and Texas.

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