I've been avoiding my impulse to comment on the whole South Charleston-Hurricane-Brooke-SSAC-Judge Webster-Supreme Court brouhaha for a number of reasons. I serve on the SSAC's Soccer Committee (possible conflict). I know South Charleston's defensive coordinator (possible conflict). My wife Cindy is an employee of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia (you get the idea). I have met and like Judge Webster and the players' counsel, Ben Salango. One of the counsel for Brooke County is my former law school roommate. The conflicts abound.
And yet, I have to weigh in on the issue of whether the SSAC and the Supreme Court got it right, don't I? Isn't this blog supposed to be about coaching and the law? When the two intersect, as they so clearly did here, I would be remiss if I didn't throw in my two cents' worth.
So here it is. The Supreme Court got it right. And South Charleston High has only its coaches and administration to blame if it doesn't like the result.
Like it or not, the SSAC has to have the ability and the right to serve as the ultimate arbiter of decisions regarding eligibility and suspensions. The Supreme Court made it very clear in the O.J. Mayo case just three years ago that it was going to give the SSAC wide latitude in its governance of high school sports. Whether you agree with all, most, or none of its decisions, the SSAC can't run high school sports (and, by extension, its referees can't govern and control contests) if it is subject to being second-guessed by a litigant or a court whenever it makes a decision.
As for the SSAC's swift action in declaring the semi-final between Brooke and South Charleston forfeited, you had to see that coming. I'm sure South Charleston understood that if it played the suspended players and the court's decision ultimately went against them, the SSAC would make them forfeit the game.
I can't for the life of me understand the South Charleston head coach's comments blaming the SSAC and particularly the Brooke County Board of Education for the decision. He must have known that playing the four suspended players could (and likely would) result in the forfeiture of the game. How can you blame Brooke County for making sure that the correct decision was made before the Championship game took place?
South Charleston's coach and administration had three clear choices: (1) discipline the players for their part in the brawl (which was never denied in any of the court proceedings); (2) impose no discipline but hold them out of the Brooke game pending a final resolution of the court case; (3) put the players in the game despite the suspensions and take their chances that the players would prevail before the Supreme Court.
That they chose option three speaks volumes for what they thought was important (winning, at any cost) and what they thought the chances of winning were without the players (zilch).
The Eagles made their nest, no one else. Now they can lie in it all winter long.