By Matt Hill
Over the last week, I have been covering the District 1-AA basketball tournament for another media outlet, and in a conversation with somebody, the subject came up about how many teams advance to the region.
I said, “We’re playing a whole week to eliminate two teams on each side.”
The TSSAA postseason needs to be revamped to where it means something to reach the regional tournament, like it does in other sports.
Before I get into the meat of this column, I want to say to any team that finished third or fourth in the district this year that I am not picking on you or taking away from your accomplishment. Regarding one of the schools that reached the regional that way, I spent almost nine years of my life in that community and still love the people there. But that same school had an outstanding softball team last year and didn’t reach regionals because it was much harder in that sport.
My point is, why does basketball get to send third- and fourth-place teams into the region and none of the other sports do? It’s all about money.
Among the sports that have district tournaments, basketball brings the biggest crowd and makes the most money. Therefore, the TSSAA allows two more teams in basketball.
It doesn’t make it right.
Why give a team that loses in the district semifinals a second chance that a baseball, volleyball or softball team does not get? It’s just not fair.
In the Three Rivers Conference, the league has six teams, meaning four of the six move on. It’s even worse in the Watauga Valley as four of the five move on.
I do understand that a conference like the Watauga Valley girls is very strong and that all four teams who made region deserve to be there, but in other conferences not all the four teams have really earned it.
The kids in the other sports don’t get the same opportunities to play in the region and move on to the substate or state, and it’s just not quite right.
In other states, the teams deserving to be in the postseason are in the postseason. I guess there’s just too much money to be made.
Money dictates what the TSSAA does, and the organization knows the other sports do not make the cash.
Meanwhile, last year’s Johnson County softball team wasn’t able to move on when, if the format had been different, it would have.
You may be asking, which format do I like better? I like the two-team format.
The semifinal Saturday would have a lot more meaning if the people were facing off for a chance to reach the regional tournament. Like I said earlier, we’re playing a whole week to eliminate two teams.
You may be saying, teams like Unicoi County reach the final every year and that doesn’t leave any opportunity for anyone else. Well, nothing should be given in this life, you should have to earn it.
Starting when kids are five years old, the parents involved have to get the kids ready for what’s coming up — and mediocrity should not be rewarded.
One time I heard about a coach getting upset at a photographer for not taking a team picture after his team finished second in a six-team regular season volleyball tournament. The team had not earned recognition, and recognition should be earned.
Same thing with the basketball postseason. Why should you just get past one round and advance to the region?
This also goes for the teams at the top. Instead of Unicoi County, Sullivan East and the Lady Cyclones getting a bye into the region, that Saturday game would have been big for them to and forced them to have to win that day to get in.
Of course the Blue Devils and Patriots had no trouble, but wouldn’t it have made it more interesting?
It’s not right for those schools either, as in the other sports there are no byes into the region. Why are teams getting a free pass and not having to earn it?
Will this ever be changed? Probably not, because there’s too much money involved.
Does it make it fair and right? You be the judge.
Matt Hill is a correspondent for the Elizabethton Star.