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Saturday Morning Quarterback
Mar 05, 2007 12:00 am
The TSSAA seems to be the favorite whipping boy of everyone associated with high school athletics.
Whatever the state's high school athletics governing body decides seems to rankle more people than it pleases. And the reasons usually start and stop with the $.
One of those decisions was the move to reschedule the district and region basketball tournaments where no more than two games may be held at one site on a school night. It caused the districts to begin earlier than in the past and for more first-round games to be played at home sites.
The association said it was to keep teams and fans from being out at games which started as late as 9 p.m. Officials also said attendance was higher in places where the new format had been used in the past. Left unsaid, more nights mean more gates which means higher attendance, even if it's the same number of fans paying admission more often.
Translation: More $.
Having just gone through the new format for the first time, my verdict is – I like it.
For reasons that are admittedly mostly self-serving, covering the tournaments has been easier this year with fewer games per night. No 8:30 or 9 p.m. tipoffs gets the thumbs up from any media with late-night deadlines [another reason for the change, TSSAA says].
The hardest day of the tournament was the Saturday when four District 9-AAA games were played at Beech. Tournaments may double up on weekends or when weather forces postponements, which happened at some places.
It also gives the coaches and teams more time to prepare for games when they don't have to play on consecutive nights. And they're more rested for games. Of the local teams, only the 9-AAA boys teams, Central and Mt. Juliet, had to play back-to-back during the districts. Lebanon's boys would have in 7-AAA had the Blue Devils won their first-round game at White County.
"Even if we were back to back, we're still going to put in our time [to prepare]; we may not get as much rest, " Wilson Central girls' coach Bud Brandon said. "[The new format] is probably easier on our sleep habits. It's probably healthier for coaches.
"It does give you a little more time."
Friendship boys' coach Matt Bradshaw said, "I liked it as a coach... If you got the late game on a four-game night, you're not going to bed before midnight, and that's when you're playing at Watertown, much less playing far away from home."
I was concerned about the atmosphere at games where fewer games meant fewer teams which meant fewer fans, or so I thought. But the games I saw at Gordonsville and Watertown were packed and loud. WHS principal Rick Martin told me the Region 4-A girls' semifinals played in his gym Monday may have drawn the biggest crowd the facility has ever had. And that was without a single Wilson County team and only one, Gordonsville, which had a short drive.
Beech's much-bigger gym, which didn't have a home team after the districts, was never close to full. But Central and Mt. Juliet brought strong contingents of fans and everyone's crowds were vocal.
But even though the format has its advantages, Bradshaw and Brandon liked things as they were for other reasons.
"Our fans, we had a really good crowd to the championship game," Brandon said. "If we had a boys and girls playing on the same night, you would have had an even bigger turnout.
"I'm kind of partial to the old format. A lot of fans might want to come see a girls' game and a boys' [game] format. That's what we're used to."
Bradshaw, a married father of two small children, looks at it from a pocketbook angle.
"From a fan and family perspective, I don't like it; it costs too much," Bradshaw said. "If you're trying to take a family of four to a game, that's expensive."
Of course, from the TSSAA's perspective, that's the point.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.