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The ticket: Home field advantage? It sometimes pays to travel in the NCHSAA playoffs

Coaches and fans like to have home-field advantage in the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs, but sometimes it pays to hit the road — sort of. 
 
There are some little-known rules that keep the costs of traveling manageable.
 
For football, the NCHSAA reimburses schools for meals ($6 per person, max of 45) no matter how far the difference in mileage. This changes in other sports, depending on the mileage and that sport’s roster size.
 
The NCHSAA also, for football, kicks in 75 cents per mile, round-trip, for distances that are 76 or more miles in one direction. If the distance is more than 150 miles in one direction, the NCHSAA will also pay up to $360 for a motel ($8 per person, max of 45). If the distance is more than 300 miles in one direction, the NCHSAA can approve other expenses.
 
That’s only half of it.
 
The road team in the NCHSAA playoffs also gets a chunk of the money collected in ticket sales.
 
The NCHSAA takes 15 percent of the gate money off the top for the first few rounds and 25 percent from the regional finals. Then the teams split what’s left.
The home team will make some of that back through concession sales, which do not have to be split or shared with anyone, but also lose some of it by having to pay officials out of their own pocket (just like in the regular season). 
 
So it’s not unheard of for a road team to walk away with more money than the home team in the NCHSAA playoffs, especially if there’s a low turnout. 
 
Pretty crazy, right? 
 
If there’s a healthy debate we should be having about the NCHSAA playoffs, it’s about helping home teams not lose money on home games, not the long travel that sometimes happens. After all, almost all coaches associations have opted for brackets that are more balanced in terms of competition than geography, and the NCHSAA’s reimbursement model has allayed some of those concerns.

The differences in the four fights

Two of the eight teams that had in-game or postgame altercations in the next-to-last week of the football season were not banned from the postseason.

It’s important to understand why.

It’s not that the NCHSAA was lenient with one case and hard on the others.

The biggest difference is when the fights happened.

The East Mecklenburg/Hickory Ridge fight happened during a game. This is a clear-cut case for the NCHSAA. If three players are fighting — “fighting” includes leaving the bench area while the fight is going on, even if it’s to break up the fight — then the team is not allowed to play in the postseason. The video upheld the ruling.

The Rocky River/Independence scuffle, according to reports, started immediately after the last play of the game. That is considered by the NCHSAA as an in-game fight as well. Officials are still officiating until the teams return to their sidelines. That definition made this ruling an easy one as well.

Which brings us to Hunt/Fike, which actually happened in the postgame handshake line. The NCHSAA has little jurisdiction over truly postgame fights because there is no “sideline” at that point for players to stay near and no officials around to determine ejections. But the NCHSAA did not make the call here, Wilson County Schools did. Both teams were not allowed to continue the season by the county, not the NCHSAA.

But Pitt County Schools did go that far with D.H. Conley/South Central, which put the ruling in the hands of the NCHSAA, which, as we’ve already said, has little jurisdiction over postgame fights because there are no officials or sidelines.

The NCHSAA had to rule based on whatever available video they could get, but the one circulating online — as bad as it looked — only shows one player throwing a punch (and he threw at least three). The NCHSAA can’t suspend both teams when it can only confirm that one player threw punches. That would’ve fared better in the court of public opinion, perhaps, but it would’ve breached the NCHSAA’s own rules.

Fighting rules to consider…

Here are three things the NCHSAA board should consider when it comes to ejections in the future.
 
1. Create rules that handle fights that occur in the final week. Remember, Week 12 was originally scheduled as the season finale. Would the NCHSAA have been able to determine a ruling on a fight that happens at 9:30 p.m. the Friday night before brackets are released around noon the next day? Would the brackets have had to wait? Would they have had to release three different brackets and made the ruling later? It’s something to think about.
 
2. Create rules that handle postgame fights. These can be just as nasty or worse than ones that happen during the game. 
 
3. Don’t soften the consequences. I’ve heard it said that it’s “unfair” that entire teams are held out of the postseason because of the “actions of a few.” Welcome to life: where what you do affects others and what others do affects you. We’re not as tight-knit as a village, but we are all societally connected in some way. And besides, team rules are put in place so that, when they’re broken, the team is punished. If you individualize the rules against fighting, you’ll likely see more fights because students will be led to believe that they’re only affecting their seasons and not those around them. The rule, when it’s explained to players, can be a great deterrent and likely already is.

Something that probably only interests me…

The NCHSAA released new ADM (average daily membership) numbers last week as it does annually to help subdivide the football playoffs. 
 
I’m always fascinated by how much some of the attendance numbers change from year-to-year.
 
If the NCHSAA were to do its realignment every two years, instead of every four, these teams would be changing classification next fall (note: Cardinal Gibbons has 3A numbers but requested to be placed in 4A):
 
  • Clayton, Southwest Guilford, D.H. Conley, Marvin Ridge, Cox Mill, Cuthbertson, Hillside, Cleveland (3A to 4A)
  • Seventy-First, High Point Central, South Central, Ragsdale, West Charlotte, Cardinal Gibbons, Corinth Holders, Scotland, West Mecklenburg, Glenn, Purnell Swett (4A to 3A)
  • Vance County, North Davidson, Durham School of the Arts, Hibriten, St. Pauls, Ledford, Atkins (2A to 3A)
  • Havelock, Tuscola, East Rowan, Eastern Wayne, Burns, McMichael, West Caldwell, Morehead (3A to 2A)
  • Granville Central, Lincoln Charter, Pine Lake Prep, Pender (1A to 2A)
  • Fairmont, East Montgomery, Carver, Warren County (2A to 1A)
 
These schools had some of the biggest changes in ADM in the last year that were unrelated to being a new school or being affected from a new school’s opening. I also left out those schools whose numbers dipped due to those displaced by Hurricane Florence. 
 
  • Southeast Guilford (dropped 24.5%)
  • Carver (dropped 21.46%)
  • Corinth Holders (dropped 21.37%)
  • Northwest Halifax (dropped 19.24%)
  • Patton (dropped 16.57%)
  • West Mecklenburg (dropped 15.63%)
  • Olympic (dropped 14.39%)
  • Vance (up 16.84%)
  • Weddington (up 16.11%)
  • Hickory (up 13.89%)
  • Hoggard (up 13.62%)
  • Cuthbertson (up 11.86%)

#AskJMB

This week’s question: Now that the brackets are out in all sports, what changes would you make in the playoff process?
 
This week’s answer: I’m leaning toward none. The process put forward this year had no major anomalies that need to trigger sweeping changes. And, after the NCHSAA has tinkered with the format every year for nearly a decade, we should let this one ride.
 
The next few years should have no changes, but instead be used as a data collection to see if we can find ways to 1) eliminate first-round conference matchups entirely in non-subdivided brackets and 2) make the bracket more balanced (my long-held contention is that the No. 1 overall seed gets too tough of a road, usually running up against a No. 16 or No. 17 in the second round that happens to be the top wild-card in the bracket and then running into No. 8 or No. 9 in the third round that happens to be the best conference runner-up).

Links to love

  • It’s not uncommon these days for some schools to have a girl on the football team, and chances are she’s a kicker. But Western Alamance, one of the top 3A teams in the state, has a girl on its team who can deliver big hits and has even scored a touchdown.
  • The News & Observer has a new series called “Riding with recruits,” which puts a high school sports spin on the successful vehicular interview formats. There’s no singing involved, so it’s more like Jerry Seinfeld and less like James Corden. You can see ones with Clayton’s J.R. Walker and Savion Jackson, as well as Heritage’s Drake Thomas, by clicking here.

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J. Mike Blake

J. Mike Blake is an English teacher at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh and a contributor to HighSchoolOT.com. He covered high school sports for a variety of newspapers in The News & Observer Publishing Company for 10 years and won 14 N.C. Press Association awards. He is also the only two-time winner of the N.C. Soccer Coaches Association’s media person of the year award.