Can the consolation games!

To anyone who disagrees, I’m sorry. You won’t like this post. But a civil debate would be good for all. 

Today is the final day of the 2016-17 Kansas high school basketball season. Eight girls teams and eight boys teams–way, way too many for a state with fewer than 375 schools–will take home championship trophies. Sixteen more teams will take home state runner-up trophies.

The girls championship games are underway. Most boys championship games will start at 6:15 or shortly thereafter. 

Before we could get to the championship games, the eight sites (again, way too man) had to get through a pair of third place games. 

Painful.

Why the hell does the Kansas State High School Activities Association insist on third place games? 

I believe it’s all about $$$$$$$$$$$. Or as Pink Floyd crooned in 1973, “MONEY”. 

The fans of the schools involved in the third place game must not only pay admission to get into the facility for the game, but they’re going to have to spend more money on gas, and if the fans are a long way from the site, pay for another night in a hotel, which can be expensive. 

The KSHSAA does not pay schools for travel expenses. It demands exorbitant radio and television rights fees, which makes live broadcasts of the state tournaments cost prohibitive. It does not pay any schools a cut of the gate, which is the case in Louisiana and several other states. It keeps everything after facility rental and offcials’ fees. And the KSHSAA has gotten cheap in the case of officials, forcing the officials assigned to the Wednesday and Thursday games at each state tournament to work two games instead of one. 

I haven’t begun to discuss the games themselves. Here I go. 

The teams which must face the third place game are less than 24 hours removed from seeing their dreams of winning a state championship completely shattered. If a team suffered a particularly heartbreaking loss–like the one which Bishop Seabury suffered last night in the Class 2A boys semifinals–it is particiulary cruel. 

Bishop Seabury lost the longest game in the history of the KSHSAA state basketball tournament–a history that dates to 1911, when William Taft was president–a six-overtime thriller vs. St. John-Hudson, a perennial powerhouse which happens to be the alma mater of Dean Wade, who is now in Kansas State’s starting lineup. St. John won 52-51 on a 35-foot shot at the buzzer in the sixth overtime. 

SIX OVERTIMES. That’s 56 minutes of basketball, or the equivalent of a full game and there quarters of another. 

If I were the losing coach in that game, I would never be able to get my players up for a game less than 24 hours later. 

Yet the KSHSAA, in its undying quest to make money, forced Seabury to come back today at 2 and play again against a Hoxie team which was handily defeated by Sacred Hebert late Friday night. Even though Hoxie was blown out, the Indians had a clear advantage, seeing as they would want to end their season on a high note, even if the game meant absolutely nothing. 

Somehow, Seabury defeated Hoxie 68-56. My theory was wrong in that instance, but in many others, it has been proven deadly accurate. 

I would not award third place trophies. Many states, Louisiana among them, awards trophies only to the top two teams. 

If the KSHSAA insists on giving third place teams trophies, then just give the losers of the semifinals trophies. The KSHSAA doesn’t have any problem spending money on superfluous awards, so what’s a few more trophies? 

If the KSHSAA is worried that much about the lost revenue from the third place games, it would be easy to make it up–and more. 

Make the championship games separate admissions. 

Play the first game at 1. Clear the arena 30 minutes after the completion of that game. Then re-open the gates and tip the second game at 5 or 5:30. The KSHSAA could also charge a higher price for admission; I’d say $2 or $3 more than the earlier rounds. 

The NCAA held third place games during the men’s Final Four from its inception in 1939 through 1981. The last third place game was Virginia vs. LSU in Philadelphia. It happened to be the same day President Reagan was shot by John Hinckley Jr. Reagan’s condition at George Washington University hospital was unknown early that afternoon, and it was debated whether or not the third place game–and the championship for that matter–should proceed. 

The games proceeded, but later in 1981, the NCAA said no more third place games. This wasn’t a problem for the women, whose first NCAA tournament was in 1982. 

The KSHAA severely limits the number of games basketball teams can play in the regular season, yet they want to make teams stick around for another game after losing the most important game for eh season for a meaningless contest? 

The KSHSAA has third place games in every team sport except football. The only one I can remotely tolerate is volleyball, since it’s at the same time as the championship match on another court. Fine. I’d say nix it, but it’s not taking up extra time. 

But as bad as a third place game is in basketball, it’s much, much worse in association football, or soccer for those less enlightened. 

Players in association football run at least 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) per game, save for the goalkeepers, obviously. Can you imagine running 10 to 15 kilometers on back to back days, while at the same time facing physical contact? Let’s not forget association football is not exactly gridiron football as far as contact goes, but it’s not volleyball, either. You’re going to take a beating. 

It’s horrible the KSHSAA plays its state semifinals and championship games on back-to-back days. There should be at least three days of rest, probably more. 

Enough already. I think I’ve made my point. 

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 11, 2017, in KSHSAA and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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