Writer and philosopher George Santayana wrote a famous line about the importance of learning from history.
“Those who cannot remember the past,” Santayana wrote, “would make perfect school administrators for Montana Class AA high schools.”
OK, so the actual quote is, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
In Montana high school sports, we are certainly condemned to repeat our mistakes over and over and over because too many cannot remember the past.
Once again, a collection of administrators with advanced college degrees decided to ignore history when making decisions that have a profound impact on the lives of student-athletes.
And by history, we mean just a little while ago.
As heavy rain blanketed the state on the weekend of May 17-18, Class AA administrators wiped away the hard work, hopes and dreams of dozens of softball players because they failed to set up a backup plan for the divisional tournaments.
They failed to learn from the disastrous Memorial Day weekend of 1996. That is when rain in Billings cancelled the Class AA and the Class A State tournaments.
Twenty-three years later, that rainout still stings the players and coaches of the teams involved.
This time around, the Western AA Divisional in Missoula got one day in before being called by the rain. In Billings, the Eastern AA Divisional was completely scrapped an hour and a half after it was scheduled to begin for the same reason.
The only contingency plan the administrators came up with was to send the four teams with the best regular-season record from each division to the Class AA Stat tournament the following week in Butte.
They could have tried to move the divisional tournaments to the following Monday and Tuesday. They could have thought ahead and moved the tournaments up earlier in that week because every weatherman in the state was telling us it was going to be too wet to play softball.
They also could have sent all the teams to the state tournament like they used to do.
Instead, these administrators thought the best option was to take the bat out of the hands of six of the state’s 14 Class AA teams.
In doing so, so many dreams of a Cinderella story were gone. So many hopes of one last opportunity to catch the eye of a college coach were dashed.
For the Butte High Bulldogs, the plans of playing the state tournament on their home field were ripped away like a rug they were standing on.
For the record, we need to address the giant elephant in the room here. It often goes unsaid with a little wink and a nod, but we all see it. It is time to say it.
This would never happen to the boys.
There is no way school administrators would sit back and watch as a boys’ sport was called off for any reason. There is no way that would ever even be mentioned as a possibility.
Girls have only been playing high school softball in Montana since 1986. Butte High and Butte Central did not play until 1991.
That right there is an incredible crime. Unfortunately, the girls are still only taken as seriously as a pat on the head by administrators who continue to drop the ball when supposedly fighting for their rights.
We say “continue” because those administrators struck out looking once again in the weeks following the divisional travesty.
Butte High offered a nice solution to fix the problem for good, and everybody loved it. It seemed like a no-brainer.
The plan would invite every team to the Class AA State tournament.
That is a move that makes so much sense for so many reasons. For one thing, the Montana spring allows for such a short softball season that it is impossible for the best teams to emerge on record alone.
Billings Senior showed us that when the Broncs went from being the fourth seed from the Eastern AA — and nearly missing state because of the shortsighted backup plan — to having defending champion Great Falls High on the ropes in the state championship game.
A week earlier, Missoula Hellgate went on a Friday run that had the Knights on the verge of an unlikely trip to the state tournament before their dreams were dashed by poor decision making.
Butte High played just a handful of games when the temperature was above 40 degrees. Still, as the season went on, the Bulldogs continued to improve. They were playing their best at the right time, and they went to Billings knowing without a doubt that they would secure a spot in the state tournament.
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs severely underestimated the shortsightedness of some of the administrators who are supposed to be looking out for their best interest.
Bulldog coach Ryan Stosich presented his plan to have a state tournament that could still be played over three days.
The second part of the plan called for the tournament to be played the week before Memorial Day weekend. That would give the tournament a fall back plan for the following week in case of heavy rain or snow.
The best part of the plan was that it actually saved money for the schools because it eliminated the divisional tournaments and did not go back to the playoff system. It also meant less time away from the classroom.
The Class AA coaches voted unanimously to accept Butte High’s plan during their meeting at the state tournament.
That’s right, unanimously.
All it needed was the OK form activities directors and principals, and we would make sure that the travesty of 2019 would be the last time any softball team would be cheated out of a chance to win it all because of the weather.
Inexplicably, the Class AA ADs met and voted Butte High’s proposal down.
The Class AA will stick with the divisional tournaments for next year. The only change is that the tournaments will be held on Thursday and Friday, leaving Saturday as the fallback plan.
The magnitude of the ridiculousness of this plan is hard to even begin to fathom.
If we invented the flux capacitor and went back in time and started the 2019 Eastern AA Divisional tournament at Stewart Park in Billings on Thursday, May 16 instead of Friday, May 17, it would still be rained out.
That is how mind-blowingly bad that plan is.
Yet, that is the plan that Class AA school administrators with advanced college degrees gave us. They had the chance to show the girls that they care about their sports, too, and they chose not to.
How they can show their faces in public after making that decision is anybody’s guess. How they can look their schools’ history teachers in the eyes is an even bigger question.
Somewhere, you just know George Santayana is banging his head off a brick wall.
— Bill Foley, who routinely bangs his heads off a brick wall, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. 2 comments