The Iowa High School Athletic Association has spoken, and it's a setback for the Metro Sports Report and our team for the Japan-Metro All-Star Classic.
The IHSAA has informed us that any underclassman who plays in the Japan-Metro game on Aug. 14 could be declared ineligible for their entire 2013 high school campaign.
Todd Tharp, an assistant director with the IHSAA, said we violated an IHSAA rule by not holding an open tryout before selecting the Metro all-star squad. As a result, only graduated seniors may play in our game without facing a possible penalty from the state association.
First of all, Tharp is right. We hand-picked our team and did not hold a tryout. As president of the Metro Sports Report, I take full responsibility for the oversight and have apologized to the six juniors who were selected for the team.
Ignorance of the rule is no excuse. Plain and simple, I made a mistake and I'm truly sorry.
I helped run an all-star game against a team from Japan in 2010 and checked with the IHSAA at that point, inquiring about the rules, and was told everything was fine. The gentleman I spoke with at the IHSAA did not say anything about open tryouts.
Unforunately, I did not check with the IHSAA before the selection of this year's team, which is where I went wrong. A phone call to the right person at the IHSAA -- namely, Tharp -- would have prevented the problem from occurring.
Again, mea culpa.
What IHSAA's "all-star" rule says
Tharp cited IHSAA rule 281-36.1, which deals with all-star contests.
Here is the first sentence of the rule we violated, and I invite you to decipher it along with me:
"All-star contest means an event for which admission is charged at which all-stars compete during the school year against other all-stars, either individually or as all-star teams."
Yes, we are staging an all-star game. And yes, we are charging admission ($5). But no, it's not during the school year. Our game is on Aug. 14, before school begins at any of the Metro schools.
Linn-Mar and Xavier begin school on Aug. 15, Prairie starts Aug. 16, Marion begins Aug. 21 and the Cedar Rapids Community Schools begin Aug. 21, so we did not violate that part of the rule.
Here's the next sentence of the rule, and this is a real doozy (watch out for the double negative):
"All-star contests shall not include non-invitational events for which students audition or try-out or the auditions (are) try-outs themselves."
Tharp said that's where we went wrong. According to Tharp, that sentence spells it out: You must hold a tryout to keep it legal.
Go ahead and try to parse that sentence yourself: "All-star contests shall not include non-invitational events for which students audition or try-out or the auditions (are) try-outs themselves."
I don't know about you, but I have a degree from a Big Ten school (no, not Iowa) and I've been a sports journalist for 38 years. I confess my brain has turned partially to mush over the years, but I've read that sentence a dozen times and still have no idea what it means.
It doesn't matter, though. Tharp said it means we should have held tryouts, and that's that. He's a good man and does good work at the IHSAA, and we're not going to challenge his interpretation of the rule or file an appeal.
Definition of "all-star"
Here's the definition of an "all-star," according to the IHSAA (it's part of rule 281-36.1):
"All-star means a secondary student from a high school interscholastic athletic team whose outstanding performance is the basis for the student's selection to compete individually in an all-star contest, or on an all-star high school team to compete with other all-stars from several other high school teams against another all-star team in a contest created for an all-star contest."
That sentence is a little long-winded, but yes. We picked an all-star team for our game, no doubt about it.
Mike Koolbeck and I selected the team. Koolbeck is the vice president of the Metro Sports Report and covered numerous high school games this season. Do did I. Between us, we probably covered more than 75 games and saw all the Metro schools on numerous occasions.
We based our selections on what we saw during the entire season. We thought that was a fair, accurate and equitable way of doing it. Instead, the IHSAA thinks we should have held a tryout and picked the team based on that tryout.
Let me ask you: Which makes more sense? Should we have selected the all-star team based on what happened during games? Or should we have conducted a tryout, invited everyone in the Metro area to attend, hit them a few ground balls and fly balls, pitched some batting practice and picked the team?
According to the IHSAA, the correct answer is a tryout. Tharp said we might have been surprised at a tryout, that maybe we would have discovered that somebody is really fast and would make a good courtesy runner (I hate courtesy runners; they make too many mistakes and get picked off a lot).
I had a cordial telephone conversation with Tharp as we discussed the rule and how it pertains to our event. He thinks it's clear; I don't. At one point, he suggested I take one of the double negatives out of the sentence and read it that way, which was interesting.
First of all, it doesn't help. And second of all, you've got to be kidding. I didn't put the double-negative in that sentence. They did. It's not my job to fix their mangled syntax (or maybe it is, on second thought).
In any case, we picked six juniors for our team and they cannot play. That part is simple, and we're in the process of inviting graduated seniors to take their place.
We'll be fine. We'll still have a strong team to put on the field against the Japanese squad on Aug. 14 at Kennedy High School and life goes on.
A cautionary tale
There is a cautionary tale in all of this, however. If we ran afoul of the law, so can you. Be careful.
The next time somebody calls to invite you (or your son) to play on an all-star team, you had better ask a few questions. Are they going to charge admission at the event? Was there an open tryout to select the team? Has anyone checked with the IHSAA?
What if your friend's dad calls and invites you to play in a USSSA baseball tournament. It could be a state tournament, or maybe a World Series. Is that an all-star team? Will that jeopardize your eligibility if the IHSAA finds out?
The rule applies to other sports as well. Do all of the Amateur Athletic Union all-star basketball teams hold open tryouts before picking their teams? Did Marcus Paige have to attend an open tryout before playing for his AAU team and traveling all over the country?
Maybe they do, or maybe they don't, but you had better be careful.
Team from Japan to arrive next week
The team from Japan will arrive in Iowa on Aug. 10 and play a series of six games in the state, including our game on Aug. 14. On top of everything else, Tharp issued a potential warning to us about the Japanese ballclub.
"There needs to be some background checks on this team from Japan," he told us in an email. "What is their status in regards to their players? What is their age? Are they college athletes? Do they play professionally? These are things that need to be evaluated as well."
As I told Tharp, the Japanese trip to Iowa is being run under the auspices of the Iowa Amateur Athletic Union as an exchange program. We've been assured by Iowa AAU that they are high school kids of the proper age, but there's no way we can verify that on our own.
By the way, we raised the issue of baseball "travel teams" with Tharp, noting there are many of them all over the state for high school players and have been for years. Are they legal?
"I do not know the answer," he responded. "All I can say is that if these student-athletes are hand-picked and are told you are one of 15 athletes that are going to play on this team, in our eyes, that is considered an all-star team. In order for these to occur, there should be a tryout process."
OK, but good luck enforcing that one fairly.
Tharp concluded his email with this thought: "Maybe we need to look at this rule again and make sure we are asking the appropriate questions regarding the all-star rule," he said.
That might be a good idea.
|< Prev||Next >|