Amy Donaldson: In wake of the UHSAA ruling we learn, life isn't fair, and mercy may be elusive

Published: Monday, Oct. 22 2012 1:02 a.m. MDT

Because while the panel upheld the executive committee's decision on forfeits as the preferred penalty in the Timpview case, they felt forcing East to forfeit all of the games in question was too harsh a penalty. They tried to mitigate the damage by allowing them to be the lowest-seeded team from their region in the playoffs.

6. How did three different panels representing the UHSAA come up with three different punishments?

Discretion.

The by-laws allow for a panel in deciding which and how to apply punishments to each unique situation. Just like three witnesses to the same crime will tell three slightly different stories, three different panels can find reasons for imposing the penalties allowed by the rules.

Each of the panels, including the region, was dealing with the same wording, which permitted that the association may forfeit a contest. Each panel used its best judgment. Not unlike the legal system, there can be differing points of view about what is a reasonable answer.

In this case, the final appeal panel felt putting East in the fourth and final playoff spot, on the road, without their coach, would be a more just punishment than simply barring them from the post-season.

7. Doesn't it punish a lot of other teams that did nothing wrong?

To some degree that's true. Herriman and Logan will likely play East and Timpview in the first round of the playoffs. Cyprus, Springville and Salem Hills were all eliminated by the decision.

But sometimes one side of the playoff bracket is loaded with top teams because of other variables. In last year's 5A state volleyball tournament, four of the five top-ranked teams were on one side of the bracket.

This year, Riverton High's volleyball coach proposed a seeding system because his team will not make the playoffs simply because, again, five of the state's top teams are in his region.

8. Final question: Does mercy – or too much discretion – lead to a lack of integrity in the rules of the association?

That's the question principals, athletic directors and coaches must wrestle with in the wake of this controversy. Those who don't want mercy should consider if they will feel differently when they're sitting at the table being judged. Those who want it should consider what high school sports would be like without the ability to rely on the integrity of the rules.

Mercy and justice are often competing interests. This issue is complicated by the reality that all of the boys affected by this did nothing wrong. Yet three teams don't get to compete in the postseason at all, and several others will face tougher opponents than they originally planned.

Sunday night Herriman head coach Larry Wilson and Logan head coach Mike Favero met with reporters to discuss their plans for protesting the BOT decision. The Jordan District released a statement condemning the decision and pointing out that Herriman parents may sue the association over the issue.

Little is clear at this point, but I do hope one thing comes from what is the most unusual pre-playoff week in history.

I hope every administrator is looking at how they determine the eligibility of their players and what safety nets they have in place to catch mistakes. Because I have a feeling the next time this issue comes before any panel, mercy will be tough to find.

Email: adonaldson@desnews.com

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