Crappy consolation

In eight (WAY TOO MANY) venues across Kansas right now, girls basketball teams are going at it. The prize: a trophy. 

That’s right, one of the most asinine, inane, pointless, nobody cares (take your pick, insert adjective of your own here) exercises of the Kansas high school sports season is taking place. 

THIRD PLACE GAMES at the state basketball tournaments. 

Eight teams (again, too many) teams advance to each of eight (again, WAY TOO MANY) state tournaments, boys and girls.

Teams which lose in the quarterfinals go home immediately. Those who lose in the semifinals don’t get to go home. Instead, they get to commiserate over their setback Friday night before going to bed, and then get to rise on Saturday and prepare to play another game, one which means nothing. 

Nothing, except the Kansas State High School Activities Association makes the loser of this meaningless game feel even worse about itself by making that team watch the winning team receive a trophy, while the losing team goes home empty handed. 

I can really imagine a team which lost its semifinal game in double overtime, or the team which lost when the other team buried a 30-footer at the buzzer to turn a two-point loss into a one-point victory, really wants to come back to the same venue less than 24 hours later and have to play another team which is similariy devastated to have had its hopes of a state championship dashed. 

It didn’t happen, but what if the Wichita South girls (6A), McPherson boys (4A-I), Scott City boys (3A), St. John boys (2A), Central Plains girls (2A), Hoxie girls (1A-I) or St. John’s/Tipton boys (1A-II) had lost their semifinal? The aforementioned teams all won state championships in 2014, or in Scott City’s case, lost a championship game after winning three conesecutive titles. Can you honestly tell me any of those schools would have wanted to come back and play the consolation game? 

In the cases of all except Wichita South and McPherson, the teams listed are a long way from home and had to stay overnight Friday. Again, would they have wanted to stay in a hotel and then have to wake up and play the third place game. Worse, they would be getting home late. 

Now, there are some teams which would love a third place game, especially ones which (a) haven’t been to a state tournament for many years, or (b) made a postseason run after a sub-par regular season. But that’s it. 

The NCAA used to have a third place game in the Final Four. It was scurbbed after the 1981 tournament. You could hear coaches and athletic directors breathing a sigh of relief. What was worse about that was the consolation game was played the same day as the final, meaning the losers of the national semifinals had to spend one or two extra nights in a hotel. 

LSU played in the final thir dplace game in 1981. The Bayou Bengals lost 67-49 to Indiana in a game which ended a little after 3 p.m. Eastern/2 p.m. Central. LSU could easily have done its interviews with the press, showered, dressed and then caught a charter flight at the Philadelphia airport at 7 p.m., arriving in Baton Rouge by 9:30 p.m. Central. The Bayou Bengals even could have flown commerical back to New Orleans and then bused to Baton Rouge.

Instead, the NCAA not onlly forced LSU to stay two extra days, it forced it to practice at the Spectrum and go through interviews that Sunday. The team didn’t get back to Baton Rouge until late Monday night, by which time (a) Indiana had wrapped up the title by defeating North Carolina 63-50, and (b) President Reagan was out of danger after being shot by John HInckley Jr. earlier that day. 

It’s bad enough KSHSAA holds third place games for basketball. Worse, it holds it for every team sport except football. Volleyball and softball are not okay, but at least they’re held at the same time as the championship games, so it doesn’t extend the tournament. But do we need third place games in baseball and soccer? I guess the KSHSAA believes since a third place match is good for the FIFA World Cup, it’s good enough for Kansas high schools. 

What I would love to see is for a team to boycott the third place game. Just don’t show up. Go home after the semifinals, or if the hotel won’t release the team, leave early Saturday morning. Have an administrator call KSHSAA Executive Director Gary Musselman and tell him no way. We aren’t doing it. We want to go home. The school will tell its fans not to show up, and then maybe, just maybe KSHSAA would get the hint. 

Or better yet, a team could warm up for the third place game, and when they go back to the locker room, just walk out and get on the bus. The fans could either not show up, or they could show up and then show solidarity with their school by walking out. Or both teams walk out. 

Problem is, the KSHSAA only cares about one thing: MONEY. They are deathly afraid of losing the (meager) ticket revenue the loss of the third place games provides. If they’re that worried about losing third place ticket revenue, why not increase the prices for the championship games $2? It still would be cheaper than the vast majority of states. 

If you don’t have third place games, you save the fees for 48 officials. You save the utility bills for having to run the electricity for the arena for 3-4 extra hours. And most of all, you allow the tournament workers and concession workers the chance to either (a) sleep late on Saturday or (b) go hom early Saturday. What’s wrong with that? 

In 2011, Jack Krier and I started a policy that we would not cover third place games unless another team were playing for a championship at the same site. I think more and more publications should adopt it. If the news media didn’t care, maybe others would stop caring, too. 

Rant over. Enjoy your Saturday. 

About David

I am a sportswriter for a group of weekly newspapers in small towns across northern Kansas. I grew up in New Orleans, went to college at LSU and wandered in the wilderness until Hurricane Katrina finally put me on the path to my current job.

Posted on March 14, 2015, in KSHSAA and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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