Once again, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s powers that be completely botched important football decisions this season — at least for the Bladen County teams.
During the realignment debate earlier in the year, several formats were considered, most of which would have kept East Bladen and West Bladen high schools out of the unnecessary split-conference set-up the Eagles and Knights have had to contend with for several years.
But in the end, rather than set up Bladen County’s Class 2-A schools with Robeson County’s and Columbus County’s Class 2-A schools, the NCHSAA used its infinite wisdom to split conferences all over the region.
This is the same group that mandates only a certain number of games can be played because, any more is too much for the student-athletes — UNLESS the additional game is an endowment game and money is funneled to the NCHSAA. Apparently then, and only then, it’s OK for the student-athletes to have another game to deal with.
At the back end of this football season, the NCHSAA again showed how smart it was. After doing away with the pod system that never did cut down on travel and set up too many inter-conference matchups in the first round, what does the NCHSAA do?
First, it matched East Bladen against Four County Conference foe Clinton in the first round — the only matchup out of the same conference in Class 2-A statewide.
Then, it sends No. 16 seed West Bladen on a five-hour bus ride to Elizabeth City to play No. 1 seed Northeastern. At the same time, No. 15 seed Southern Vance, with the same record as the Knights and not far from the Elizabeth City area, is sent on a five-hour bus ride to Tabor City to face No. 2 seed South Columbus.
Let’s face it, the gate was good for the East Bladen-Clinton game, but those two teams deserve better than a conference rematch in the first round of the playoffs. And for West Bladen, it’s even worse, because the NCHSAA cost the school $3,000 and the students a full day of school to make that 10-hour, round-trip excursion.
Both should draw a yellow flag for unsportsmanlike conduct.