Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Proportional response

The IHSAA has always had a jones for autocracy. Its guiding philosophy, or at least its perceived guiding philosophy, was best expressed by the Blob's all-time favorite IHSAA commish, Gene Cato, whose standard line when he was compelled to dispense discipline was as uncompromising as it was oddly lyrical.

"The rules are clear and the penalties severe," Gene, Gene the Punishin' Machine used to intone.

The problem with that, of course, was the rules were often as clear as mud, and as such were sometimes enforced with a tin ear for both common sense and human compassion. But I'm thinking of Gene's line again today upon the news that his lineal descendant, Bobby Cox, has arbitrarily ended the basketball seasons of two Indianapolis girls teams.

And this time it was exactly the right thing to do.

That a game between the girls of Ben Davis and the girls of Pike disintegrated into a street fight is, in a weird way, a nod to gender equality, in the sense that girls these days can apparently be as witless as boys on the field of athletic competition. As can their coaches, parents and other alleged adults charged with setting an example for them.

So kudos to Cox for not going any easier on them than he went on the brawling Griffith and Hammond boys last year, ending both of their seasons and banning them from the tournament as well. This being the litigious 21st century, of course, the schools took the IHSAA to court and got an injunction, which led to the ludicrous scenario of Griffith actually playing in the Class 3A state championship game.

To the no doubt great relief of Cox and the IHSAA, Guerin Catholic knocked off Griffith to win the title, depriving us of what surely would have been one of the more comical trophy presentations in Indiana basketball history.

Cox (gritting his teeth): Congratulations, Griffith.

Griffith coach (yanking on the trophy, which Cox seems reluctant to release): Uh ... oof ... thanks.

A similar scenario isn't likely to happen, given that both the Pike and Ben Davis administrations said publicly they would abide by the IHSAA's ruling. But who knows? It could still end up in court, the IHSAA could still lose again, and Cox could be facing the same scenario as last year, given that Ben Davis was 13-5 and Pike 14-4 the day they played.

As Gene Cato not quite said: The rules are clear. And the prospect for humiliation is severe.   

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