Once again, the Class AA is getting it all wrong

The administrators running the Class A, B and C might not exactly be geniuses. Compared to the people in charge of the Class AA, though, they look like rocket scientists.

Once again, the short sightedness of the administrators of the Class AA has reared its ugly head. This time, it is hard to even begin to fathom what they are up to.

This week’s Class AA State softball tournament in Great Falls will be a two-day event. The rule change was recently put into place, ending the three-day tournaments that have ran swimmingly in Montana for more than two decades.

For years I have been banging on the Class AA school principals and activities directors for their refusal to hold divisional basketball tournaments. For years I have pleaded for them to stop discriminating against the students of the 14 largest high schools in the state.

For years I have suspected that their arrogant refusal to give an inch on the matter was based on the laziness of some principals who went into the education business for the weekends and summers off.

Finally, they have proven that I am correct.

Their go-to argument against a divisional in basketball has been that they don’t want the students to miss class time. This argument has more holes than a George W. Bush metaphor.

If that was the case, then why do they schedule so many Tuesday basketball games and then take Saturday off?

If an extra week or two of tournaments is so bad, then why do the Class A, B and C schools routinely turn out doctors, lawyers and Montana Supreme Court justices?

If missing a couple of classes was so bad, then why do the athletes who miss those classes tend to be the students who also have the best grade point averages and ACT scores? The answer to that one is, generally, the student-athletes are among the exceptional people.

Plus, they have added incentive to hit the books.

If missing school is such an issue, forcing a two-day tournament instead of a three-day tournament, then why is it on Thursday and Friday instead of Friday and Saturday?

Really, there’s no answer to that question other than to say their reasoning is completely bravo sierra.

It seems like there is a vast conspiracy against common sense and fair play when it comes to decision making in the Class AA.

At a recent meeting when the two-day softball tournament was discussed, Butte High principal John Metz was widely outnumbered when he voted against it.

So now, if a team happens to come from the bottom of the consolation bracket — an unlikely scenario that has happened — that team would have to win five games in one day to do that.

How could any educator say he cares about the health and safety of a student-athlete sign off on such a thing so ridiculous?

Don’t answer that.

The kicker to this story is that at the same complex in Great Falls this week, the Class B-C State tournament will also be played alongside the AA tournament. Just like the AA, the B-C features an eight-team bracket.

The bracket is same except for the times. The B-C will run over three days, making the tournament much more enjoyable for the fans and players.

It will also be better for the host city because the hotels and restaurants will be full for another night.

The latest step backward from the Class AA comes as the Class A — well, at least the Southwestern A — is moving in a progressive direction.

This past weekend in Anaconda, the inaugural Southwestern A Divisional tournament was held. The crowds were incredible, and so was the play.

The same three teams advanced and in the same order as if they would have qualified for state on the regular-season records as in the past. All six teams, however, will benefit from the tournament.

For one thing, Hamilton, Butte Central and Anaconda will be battle-tested teams with a highly-competitive tournament under their belts when they head to Polson for state. That just might be enough to help the Broncs, Copperheads and Maroons get the edge they need in their bid to upset powerhouses like Frenchtown and Polson this week.

Dillon, which is in its first year playing softball, will get to build on the tournament experience as it builds its program.

Likewise, even though Stevensville and Corvallis had down years, the teams got to end their season in exciting fashion that came along with a positive life experience for the players.

In the Class AA, six of the 14 teams saw their season end with a thud thanks to the silly playoff system. It’s the same way it ends for six of the eight basketball teams every season. That’s 43 percent of the Class AA schools whose players, cheerleaders, band members, student bodies and fans have to suffer because the entire season came down to one game.

Earlier this century it took a lawsuit for the Montana schools to quit discriminating against girls by making them play basketball in volleyball season. It just might take a similar lawsuit filed on behalf of the Class AA students to make the Class AA administrators to do the right thing when it comes to running the postseason the right way.

Until then, however, it appears those in charge of the Class AA will just continue to make the men and women of the Class A, B and C look like brain surgeons.

—Bill Foley, who could never be confused for a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist, writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. 3 comments

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  • Sid deBarathy
    May 27, 2014, 10:40 am

    Bill, once again you are spot on with your analysis of the Class AA. The game of fast pitch softball is unique as a sport and is different than basketball and volleyball due to the dominance of the pitchers. A two day tourney will create a situation where a teams’ number 1 pitcher may be asked to throw five games in one day. That is insane. The three day format allowed rest for the pitchers and the ability for every team to have their best pitcher in the circle at State. That’s gone now with this change. Bottom line for these administrators was MONEY! One day less in a motel. Same reason that these Class AA administrators dropped the number of teams a decade ago from all thirteen back then, to only eight in the state tourney now. SAVE MONEY by not sending some of the teams. The 13 team Class AA tourney was great and really competitive. Same as the 12 team Class A tourney is now. Once again, they totally ignored the best interests of the athletes involved.

  • AD
    May 27, 2014, 12:16 pm

    This column is brilliant. Well done. These guys just a like a lot of these association members are bean counters and wanna-be athletic smart guys. Washington and Idaho are terrible, Oregon is much better and North Dakota and South Dakota actually appear to earn a check. It is a hit or miss prop with these type of organizations and their hierarchies. Montana was surely a miss.

  • Jeff Malby
    May 28, 2014, 2:31 pm

    Bill… great job. To paraphrase the world famous Al Walker from Absarokee, who is no longer with us. Three things must happen in order to become a (in) competent administrator: must be born without a spine, have a lobotomy and get neutered (or spayed). Keep up the good work, my friend.


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