It’s Hard To Like Where This Is Going – Politicians Taking Over Decision Making In High School Sports Competitions
This article is an opinion of WFJA Sports Director Jon Hockaday. Hockaday is a former high school and college golfer, a PGA Life Member and for the last 32 years has broadcasted local HS sports on WFJA radio.
A NC State Senator has asked the NC High School Athletic Association to disregard the rules of golf after a Midway High School player was disqualified for returning an incorrect scorecard – ultimately resulting in Midway’s team missing the cut to advance to next week’s state golf championships.
According to the Rules of Golf, any player that returns a score lower than the actual score is disqualified (DQ’d). The Midway player in question returned a 75 while actually shooting a 76. The rules state that it is the players responsibility to check the hole scores and make sure the card is accurate before returning the scorecard to the scoring area.
Senator Brent Jackson of Sampson County has asked the NCHSAA to disregard the rule and allow the correct score to stand. Jackson went on the state that “High School athletics should be an opportunity to let students compete in a fair environment and learn important values for life. Among them are the importance of honesty and integrity. This decision punishes a student for correcting a mistake and choosing to be honest. The NCHSAA is funded by taxpaying parents and schools and has an obligation to provide support and guidance to players. There is clearly a problem if the Association is more concerned with throwing the rulebook at student-athletes for being honest rather than enriching the experience of students and upholding their mission statement.”
Our opinion: The NCHSAA has administered State Golf Championships for over 60 years and the Rules of Golf have been the guide that these championships has used since the beginning. Golfers have played under USGA rules forever and I’m sure all participants in this regional event were reminded by their Coaches to check their scorecards and make sure they were correct. I played high school and college golf and my Coach NEVER failed to remind us of the importance of a correct scorecard when we finished our round. I hope that the NCHSAA and the Carolinas Golf Association hold true to the rules as this reversal will be a very poor precedent to set.
Let talk about “learning important values for life” as Senator Jackson mentioned. What he is suggesting is that we learn that even though rules are in place and known, that politicians should be able to come in and overrule results and pick and choose the rules that we will follow. How fair would it be to reinstate the DQ’d score and eliminate the team that did turn in their scorecards correctly. It’s unfortunate for the Midway player and his team and I would bet this was an honest mistake. But selecting the rules we follow and the ones we don’t – AFTER THE COMPETITION – again would be a very bad precedent. Having managed hundreds of golf competitions over a 30-year career in golf, I can assure you that the majority of DQ penalties were not intentional but still subject to the rules. I have been DQ’d myself for inadvertently playing from a wrong tee box – an honest mistake by our entire group – but it violated the rules and was a good lesson learned.
As bad a decision as changing this rule after-the-fact would be, in my opinion still not as bad of a decision as turning over the decision-making process of the NCHSAA Championship competitions to politicians. Those involved know that the groundswell of this change/takeover of the NCHSAA by the state legislature started several years back when a football team was eliminated from the playoffs for fighting and a politician appealed unsuccessfully to the NCHSAA to rescind the suspension. That started the take-over battle and now the gradual shift of overseeing the state association by politicians is happening.
Since Senator Jackson mentioned the NCHSAA is “funded by taxpaying parents and schools” it is worth clarifying that the NCHSAA is NOT funded by taxpayer money. Member schools DO pay membership dues to the NCHSAA but no line-item monies are sent to the NCHSAA from the Legislature. But the dues money from the public schools was enough for the NC Legislature to vote themselves into control of the NCHSAA.
I personally hate to see this. I know a lot of politicians and am friends with quite a few. But the two examples that have come up so far have been protests of NCHSAA competition rules because they affected a team in a politician’s district. Next basketball season will we have a politician from Raleigh want to change the 3-point line distance because it would help a team in their district? Will we change the pitch count limit when it affects a Senator’s son that pitches for his high school team?
High school sports should remain free from politics. I understand there is a connection between the state government and the public schools that compete in the NCHSAA. This relationship should be one of financial oversight, but competition policy/rules and administration of competitions should not be administered after the fact by politicians. Let the NCHSAA do their job and run the post-season championships. If there are rules that are outdated and need review – that’s fine – but do it PRIOR to a competition – not after it’s over and because we don’t like the results.