I sent this letter this past week to every member of the Board of Directors for the NCHSAA. It concerns events that occurred last weekend during the 4A softball state championship series.
I never received an answer or an acknowledgment.
It is a long letter, but it does not cover all that happened. Nor does it cover other instances in which the NCHSAA has not acted according to its mission statement or its creed.
I urge you to read and share if you are a high school athletic fan. Out student/athletes deserve more.
Dear Board of Directors of NCHSAA,
The following is a letter regarding events seen and experienced last weekend in Raleigh during the 4A softball championship series between West Forsyth High School and Cape Fear High School. It would be very much appreciated that this be read as it reflects upon all of us in public education.
If anyone peruses the official website of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (www.nchsaa.org) and investigates the “About” page, he/she would see a “Mission Statement”, “Vision”, and set of “Core Values and Beliefs” that stress sportsmanship and a focus on student athletes. However, the actions that I not only witnessed but experienced from NCHSAA this past weekend while traveling with the West Forsyth Titan softball team to its championship series in Raleigh were in total contradiction to the very guiding principles that supposedly direct the NCHSAA’s actions. In short, I am amazed at the events that took place.
On Friday, June 3rd, our team was scheduled to play against Cape Fear High School in the first game in a best of three series. Weather delayed and eventually postponed the game in the top of the first inning. When play resumed in the afternoon of the 4th, many of the people who attended Friday’s game were allowed back in with tickets previously sold except those who had entered with a state coach’s pass the night before. No one at the NCHSAA had the foresight to remember that many of the representative schools’ administrative and athletic personnel were allowed in Friday night on their official passes. They were not allowed into Saturday’s game at first. They had to wait with new patrons who had come Saturday to the games for the first time. In some cases, these coaches still bought a ticket to at least be guaranteed admission. That same lack of helpfulness could be witnessed when people on the VIP list, especially the wives of the coaches themselves, were not allowed in the gate on Saturday until much commotion had to be made.
Furthermore, there were no programs left for any of the West Forsyth fans to purchase to keep as a remembrance of a state championship series. Not a single West Forsyth parent or fan was able to have a memento that should have been available. They were all sold during the first game between North Stanley and Princeton High Schools. With the potential for six different games, to run out of programs before the first game is concluded is ludicrous. It was symptomatic of the absence of preparation on the part of NCHSAA, an omen for the rest of the weekend.
Toward the end of the first game won by West Forsyth, it was announced that tickets for the second game would cost $12 dollars instead of the $8 dollar charge of the first game. Apparently, the price would also cover the cost of the third game if it was needed.
This seems quite strange and a totally outright maneuver for profit. On one hand, the NCHSAA is guaranteeing itself a higher share of profits by allowing one game to potentially cost more to attend than another because the series may not have had a third game. On the other hand, it would force ticket holders to come another day to a neutral site, which for the West Forsyth team supporters was at least a two-hour drive each way. I myself was unable to come Sunday, but I had to “buy” a ticket for that game anyway. That alone seems to violate the NCHSAA’s core values of “Integrity” and “Honesty”.
But what was even more egregious was what happened Saturday night at the start of the second game.
After paying the $12 ticket fee, fans awaiting the first pitch were told to exit the stadium because of lightning strikes and a thunderstorm warning. As the weather finally subsided a while later, I along with many other West Forsyth supporters witnessed the Cape Fear bus (a Cumberland County Activity bus) leave the premises. None of us were aware that any game had been cancelled. The weather map on most anyone’s smartphone app indicated that no more severe weather was in the vicinity. Approaching the gate to inquire, we were told that there was a conference to ascertain if the game would resume. But it would be hard to presume that it would be played; one of the teams had already left.
The game was canceled. Why? There exist differing opinions, but it was known that the West Forsyth team was ready to play and that the field would have been readied by the NC State crew quickly and effectively. It seemed that one team was able to force the decision based on its own volition rather than a consensus. The fact that Cape Fear only has one pitcher was well-known. She lost the first game. She would have had to pitch again that night unless the game was called.
And it was called when Ms. Tucker received news that the other team had left. Our coaches, principal, and athletic directors were stunned and confused by the whole process.
An account of what happened Saturday night in the June 5th edition of the Winston-Salem Journal stated,
“The storm came upon us pretty quickly,” Tucker said. “Every time we were getting lightning we were delaying for 30 minutes. The last time we got one it pushed us to not even being able to clear to allow anybody back (in the stadium) until about 8:40.
“And of course as we were looking at the weather apps that everybody has, we could see that there was weather behind us,” she said.
Tucker said it was solely her decision.
“It was one of those tough calls you have to make. I made it, and we live with it,” she said.
Either Ms. Tucker has a faulty weather app or some supernatural power all of a sudden changed the direction of the offending weather without her knowledge, but there was no more severe weather in that area for the remainder of the evening. In fact, it was reported that a baseball game on the NC State campus was even played at the same time that the softball game could have been played.
Even more questionable is that many of the West fans who were waiting a decision on whether to play the game had actually witnessed the Cape Fear bus leave. Why would they have had information about cancellation and not the coaches and players from West Forsyth? If Ms. Tucker was the only one who had made the decision, then why was one team allowed to be privy to that information and not the team that traveled twice as far not be told anything? Does that not violate the “Fair Play”, “Equity”, and “Fair Competition” core values of the NCHSAA?
And was anyone who remained at the gate awaiting some explanation of whether the game would be played or not given any recourse or explanation about a refund? No. There was only an announcement over the PA inside of the very stadium we were not allowed to enter made by an announcer who could not be understood. No one from the NCHSAA made any attempt to explain to any fans what was happening. There was no ticket stub with information on it given to the attendees, just a wristband. Ms. Tucker was nowhere to be seen. Other NCHSAA “employees” seemed confused and were not helpful.
So, our West Forsyth softball team had to spend another night in Raleigh costing not only the school thousands of dollars to accommodate them, but the families who had to stay as well. Supposedly, the Cape Fear team spent the night in their homes in Cumberland County having already gotten there because of their head start from the NC State campus and their relatively short distance to travel compared to West Forsyth.
Fortunately, Sunday’s weather held. West Forsyth won in dramatic fashion. That can never be replaced. But as the team was traveling back to Clemmons with seven seniors having missed a chance to attend their Baccalaureate service and all team members having to ready themselves for exams the next day at school, I could not help to think that this could have been avoided if there was a steadfast adherence to the core value of the “Development of Student-Athletes” that states, “Participation in athletics should aid in the physiological and psychological development of the student-athlete.”
Ms. Que Tucker and the NCHSAA supposedly abide by a mission statement that seeks to “provide governance and leadership for interscholastic athletic programs that support and enrich the educational experience of students.” But that is not what I witnessed this past weekend.
Nor was that mission statement practiced when West Forsyth’s girls’ soccer team defeated Charlotte Catholic on a Monday and was forced to play a state semifinal game the next night in Charlotte. We petitioned for a day of rest for our players to recover both physically and academically because exams were starting soon. According to reports, Ms. Tucker was more concerned with following a puritan adherence to protocol than the safety and health of our soccer team. Ironic, that that same rigid devotion to protocol was completely absent on Saturday night at that softball series.
What I have observed this past weekend was a total lack of leadership and a loose interpretation of policy. Our young ladies and coaches persevered despite of that and in doing so “enriched our experience” as parents, family members, teachers, administrators, and supporters of West Forsyth. Those young ladies and their coaches reflected the very core values of the NCHSAA that Ms. Tucker and others in Raleigh failed to do.
That makes them champions on and off the field.