Ask just about anyone involved with Kansas high school athletics, and they'll tell you the Kansas State High School Activities Assn. has its heart in the right place.
Unfortunately, you can't say the same for the organization's brain.
With just two weeks' worth of spring postseason events remaining before the 2005-06 athletic year is a wrap, I now have had the opportunity to see how high school sports in the Sunflower State - and the KSHSAA - operate over the course of a full calendar. In that span, I've spent so much time scratching my head about one KSHSAA mandate or another it's a wonder my scalp's not sporting bald spots.
Many times in the last nine months I've sat before my computer and started one of these screeds, only to hold off and give Kansas' governing body for high school sports the benefit of the doubt.
Well, the benefit has reached its expiration date. Summer is almost here, and it's time to drop the hammer on some of the sorry scenarios I've seen.
1. The Class 6A and 5A baseball/softball playoff system. It's bad enough the spring sports season is crammed into less than two months. But that's nothing compared with the KSHSAA's rush to zip through the postseason.
One day. That's all the time the organization has decided is necessary to separate the state-tournament-worthy from the pretenders. Why bother with a legitimate eight-team, double-elimination tournament spread out over three to four days, with the two teams with the top regular-season rewarded with first-round byes, when all you need is eight hours to throw four teams together and after three games have one left standing?
Basically, the KSHSAA is saying the regular season means nothing. Just be good on one particular day, and we'll invite you to state. It's no wonder that when you ask a player or coach about winning a league championship, their response is a blank stare like they just don't care.
2. The moratorium that exists during the winter holidays. Want big crowds and playoff intensity? Schedule a basketball tournament between Christmas and New Year's when grandparents come to town, it's 20 degrees outside and everyone is tired of bad bowl games and fruitcake.
Or, you could tell teams they can't play during this time, essentially split their seasons in two, take away any early season momentum they may have earned and handicap coaches who can't get their full teams together for practices for two weeks because little Johnnies are scattered throughout the country when they should be taking their vacations in the summer like everyone else.
3. The postseason team tennis tiebreaker system. This one caught my attention last fall at the state tournament in Topeka as I watched teams being rewarded for players losing matches.
How so? If two teams finish with identical scores on the final leaderboard, the tiebreaker favors the team that qualified more individual players for the tournament. That's great logic until you realize if Team A qualified four players, and Team B only three, and both squads earned the same amount of points, it means Team B played far better and had its players cumulatively advance deeper in the bracket.
Then again, logic is typically lost on the KSHSAA.