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Commentary: The debate we almost had ...
by Dan Eckles - Commentary
Feb 11, 2012 | 819 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The NIAA and Northern 4A athletic administrators avoided some embarrassment this weekend when the Spanish Springs boys basketball team lost to Hug on Friday night.

The loss eliminated Spanish Springs from playoff contention. However, Spanish Springs gave Hug all it could handle until the final three minutes of regulation and an SSHS win was going to leave somebody out of the postseason, somebody that would have had a real gripe with the tie-breaking procedures.

Sometimes it's downright stupid to argue hypotheticals but sometimes, like now, it has value in pointing out the flawed thinking that went into the tie-breaking rules.

A Spanish Springs win would have left the Cougars tied in conference play with a 9-7 record with the loser of Friday's McQueen/Reno game. As it turned out, that was McQueen.

The first NIAA tiebreaker is head-to-head competition, but often times, teams split their season series, forcing a second tiebreaker to go into effect. That second tiebreaker gives teams points for each league win, with more points awarded for wins against higher-seeded teams.

Here is what very nearly happened to the Spanish Springs boys basketball team and a scenario that would have brought up much debate over this pre-regional tournament weekend.

The Cougars could have been tied for the High Desert League's fourth and final playoff seed, but been eliminated because their strength of league wins was not as good as another league team.

But here's where it get's tricky. The tiebreaker says, "If the tie remains after head-to-head, each tied team shall receive one point for each game won in league play by their defeated opponents. The team with the most points will receive the highest seed."

But the real question is, what is the league? The Northern 4A is comprised of two leagues. The Sierra League and the High Desert League. However, in local prep basketball there are 16 league games, two each (home and away) against teams in your same league and one crossover against each team from the other league. Remember, all 16 games count as league games.

So in the tiebreaker language, what is your league? For instance, would Spanish Springs have applied the tiebreaker point procedure to just its High Desert League or to its crossover games as well? Again, the crossover games counted toward a league record for all 12 Northern 4A schools.

It could have been a hairy situation because the NIAA tiebreaker language is ambiguous. It does not clearly define "league."

Spanish Springs could, and would, have argued that league meant all 16 games, not just High Desert League opponents. The Cougars won five of six crossover league games against Sierra League schools, including sweeping the SL's top three playoff seeds. Thus, that argument made the most sense for the SSHS program.

However, if the powers that be had accepted that argument, then Reno could have argued that league should just pertain to the 10 games against High Desert League opponents, not the 16-game slate that included the crossovers.

Both schools would have had very legitimate arguments since the tiebreaker language isn't clear. The NIAA would have had to leave somebody out of the mix and it would have been a very unpopular decision, either in the Spanish Springs valley or in the neighborhoods around Booth Street, where Reno High sits.

This scenario never should have come about. When Northern 4A athletic administrators put mandatory crossover games on the master schedule and opted to count them toward league play, this was a very real probability.

The same situation nearly took place last year on the girls side. McQueen and Spanish Springs finished a game apart, but had they been tied, you can bet Spanish Springs would have argued that the league be defined one way and McQueen would have argued the opposite.

Given that alone, the Northern 4A administrators should have had the foresight to address and define “league” for tiebreak procedures for this current season.

The NIAA has sole procedural control over postseason play in the Silver State so it should have addressed the issue too, especially if the Northern 4A did not.

Multiple sources have told me that if the Spanish Springs boys had been in a tie with Reno or McQueen, the tiebreaker point procedure was only going to apply to the 10 HDL games, not the entire 16-game league schedule. I wonder who got to make that decision, since it's never been clearly defined or voted on.

So, the crossover games would have been significant enough to count toward a league record, but not significant enough to count toward a tiebreaker. Who uses that kind of logic?

There are basketball rules regarding what color hair ties girls can wear in a game and how big numbers can or can't be on uniforms. But our local athletic leaders did not have the foresight to define what a league is in tie-breaking procedures.

Our student athletes deserve better.

I've been advocating for two years that the crossover games should not count toward league records. Here's one more reason why if they didn't, our prep sports landscape would be a little better off.

Dan Eckles is the Sparks Tribune's sports editor. He can be reached via email at:

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