MIGUEL MELENDEZ COLUMN
There will be times when we don’t get what we want.
We can throw tantrums and tell everyone who will listen about how unjustly we were treated, but in the end we have to live with the end result and hope it doesn’t happen again.
When mistakes are made we hope those responsible will offer an apology. It won’t rectify the situation, but at the very least provides closure.
That’s what Blair High School boys basketball coach Gamal Smalley wants from the CIF-Southern Section after learning last week the at-large selection committee left the Vikings out of the playoffs.
Twelve teams were given at-large berths in Division IV-A. Eleven of them finished with sub.-500 records. Blair, which had a winning record of 13-10, finished fourth in the Rio Hondo League at 4-6.
The tournament seeding committee utilizes the following in its selection process for at-large berths: head-to-head competition of teams under consideration; overall strength of the league in which the team participates; overall won/loss record; league finish and strength at end of the season (whether team has lost its last three games or won its last three games, et al).
Some of the teams that earned at-large berths include Santa Ynez (11-14, 3-9); Morro Bay (12-14, 4-8); Valley Christian (13-13, 3-7); Rim of the World (8-16, 2-5) and Notre Dame (9-18, 1-13).
Blair played none of the 12 at-large teams, so head-to-head competition is thrown out.
Blair’s Rio Hondo League had four teams with records above .500. The top three teams finished 19-7, 18-7 and 16-9. By comparison, Santa Ynez and Morro Bay had only one team in its league finish with a .500 record or better.
In league finishes, Notre Dame was seventh with a 1-13 record; Rim of the World fourth; Santa Ynez sixth and Morro Bay fifth.
Strength at end of the season? Blair lost four of its last nine games; Santa Ynez lost eight of its last nine; Notre Dame lost 15 of its last 17 and Rim of the World lost nine of its last 13.
Smalley certainly makes a good argument as to why the Vikings should have been given an at-large berth.
Is it possible the selection committee made a mistake?
Is it likely it will admit the mistake and give Blair a sense of closure?
“They can’t rectify it,” Smalley said. “The only thing they can do is make sure the committee double-checks next time. It makes you wonder who sits on the committee.”
It is made up of 24 coaches who provide their services free of charge to the Southern Section. There are 1,073 member schools in the section — the largest in California — so you can see why the Southern Section, with a staff of 14, has outside help in making these decisions.
Joe Brown, president of the local NAACP chapter in Pasadena, was contacted by parents to look into the situation. Legal action seems premature but Brown said, “We’re prepared for that.”
“The kids genuinely earned the right to be there,” Brown said.
Well, not necessarily.
When Blair finished fourth in the Rio Hondo League, they put their fate for a playoff spot in the hands of the selection committee.
What the Vikings should have done to avoid this was win games they shouldn’t have lost. A sweep of South Pasadena, instead of a split, would have given Blair a 5-5 league record. The Vikings also may have avoided any potential problems if they’d split against La Caada or Temple City.
But the reality is these things didn’t happen.
Smalley feels his team should have been given an at-large berth. At this point that’s not going to happen. But Brown said at the very least the team deserves an apology from the Southern Section.
Southern Section spokesperson Thom Simmons said an apology would be far-fetched.
“If they’re going to be called out in the press and by member schools and if they’re going to be second-guessed, we’ll probably not have anybody that will want to be involved with that job,” Simmons said.
The Southern Section, which has been in existence for almost 100 years, said other schools were left out of the playoffs and Simmons said none of those schools complained.
“I’ve never had a school demand an apology for not getting into the playoffs,” he said.
“Sooner or later they will apologize, I promise you that,” Brown said.
Could this be a case of discrimination?
“If all other factors measure out,” Brown asked, “what else could it be?”
Simmons was appalled by that suggestion.
“They don’t know the racial makeup of the committee and they don’t know anything about racial makeup of the other schools that were let in,” Simmons said. “And they would probably find out that those 12 other schools probably have the same representation of minorities that Blair does.
“I’m taken aback and offended they would even consider this is racially motivated in any shape or form. It’s ludicrous to make that suggestion.”
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