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McGair: RIIL division alignment shouldn't send mixed messages

June 28, 2013

A little of this, a little of that …

Based on recent discussion by the Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s Principals’ Committee on Athletics, it might be time to chisel in stone the following commandment:

“Thou shalt not alter the makeup of divisions in non-realignment years.”

The time has come to take a hard line on teams petitioning the PCOA to move up or down in the midst of a given realignment cycle. The 2013-14 school term marks the conclusion of a two-year realignment, a precursor to the presumed changes to the realignment formula that figure to take effect in 2014-15.

Let’s go back to Monday, June 17 when events furthered the belief that it’s best to leave well enough alone. The Principals’ Committee was being asked to consider three divisional relocation requests before voting. Two of the requests were from the same sport (girls’ soccer) while the third involved the girls’ basketball team at Woonsocket High.

Presented to the board in an order that on the surface appeared to have some strategy behind it, the PCOA first heard the plea on Warwick Vets’ behalf to move from Division I to Division II in girls’ soccer. Documents were presented that detailed the injuries and the significance they played in the Hurricanes’ 1-13 league record in 2012.

The vast majority of the members were moved and voted 12-2 to allow Warwick Vets to compete in Division II next year – a non-realignment year.

With that, Division I girls’ soccer went from 15 teams to 14. Teams adhered to a 14-game schedule last fall, so observers wondered if that would mean the 2013 schedule would now include one fewer league game?

Hold on a second.

The ink on Warwick Vets’ request had barely dried when the second girls’ soccer request was laid before the PCOA. This one involved Exeter/West Greenwich and the Scarlet Knights’ desire to compete in the state’s top division after posting a 13-0-1 regular-season record and winning the Division II title.

On the surface, it looked like a silky smooth transfer. One team wants up, the other wants to move down.

As the PCOA’s 9-5 vote in favor of placing EWG in Division I suggests, however, not everyone was comfortable with reconfiguring the divisions for the coming school year – a year supposedly devoid of realignment matters.

The final piece of business involved Woonsocket and its girls’ hoops program. Even though the girls’ basketball committee had denied the Villa Novans’ request to drop from Division I to II – speaking on behalf of the girls’ basketball committee, Bay View Principal Colleen Gribbin said Woonsocket was informed that “they could not move during the two-year realignment” – the item was still published on the PCOA’s agenda.

Unlike Warwick Vets girls’ soccer, Woonsocket girls’ basketball held up its 1-17 Division I record in 2012-13 as circumstantial evidence why a change in divisional scenery was necessary. The Hurricanes had already demonstrated that when you’re going before the PCOA with a realignment request, win-loss data shouldn’t be the underlying reason.

“This year’s team struggled mightily, losing 17 games by an average of 32 points. Many teams would play their junior varsity against our varsity,” was what Tom Mezzanotte, RIIL executive director, read from a letter sent by Woonsocket’s camp.

The committee unanimously denied Woonsocket’s request (14-0), though the subject matter did not fade quietly into the night.

By rubber-stamping a team’s petition to move up – EWG girls’ soccer joins Mount Pleasant football as the second team this year to receive clearance from the PCOA to play in a higher division next year – it sends what Gribbin referenced as a “mixed message.” Why does realignment exist in the first place if teams are going to present cases why they should be re-classified?

“Are we doing the right thing by moving a team up?” asked Mezzanotte.

In a word, no. To this observer, an agreement was breached. The realignment period lasts for two years, which if you think about it isn’t a long period of time. Teams should honor the process and resist the temptation to tamper.

Let’s recall the PCOA’s January 2011 meeting. Three football teams – Ponaganset, Pilgrim and North Kingstown – sought to move down a division. All cases were rejected.

Then there’s the 2009 instance when Woonsocket girls’ basketball wished to move up to Division I after winning the Division II title the previous year. That proposal was approved and was accompanied by additional movement – Barrington up to Division I, Toll Gate down to Division II and North Smithfield down to Division III.

The long list of transactions came during non-realignment years. They also seem to drive home the “mixed messages” point made by Gribbin earlier this month.

I’m sure there are teams across the state that would like nothing more than to have the opportunity to either move down – like Woonsocket girls’ basketball desired and Warwick Vets’ girls’ soccer was ultimately granted – or up a division, a la Exeter girls’ soccer and Mount Pleasant football. My response is simple: Wait and see what the next realignment brings and take comfort in knowing that it’s not that far off.

Otherwise, the PCOA may wind up getting more than what they bargained for.

***

While Doc Rivers’ non-committal attitude regarding his return to the Boston Celtics was on full display following the team’s playoff-elimination loss to New York, there lies an interesting piece of evidence that makes perfect sense following the long, drawn-out ordeal that culminated with him taking the coaching reigns of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Initially, a book entitled “Into the Green: Doc Rivers, the Boston Celtics and the Modern NBA” was scheduled to be released this October. A few weeks after Rivers’ wavering remarks about continuing to coach the Celtics, the book authored by WEEI afternoon co-host Michael Holley was changed to a March 2014 release.

On Friday, two days after Rivers was officially introduced as the Clippers’ next head coach, a title search on barnesandnoble.com yielded no returns.

While we don’t know the true reason why the change in the release date regarding this particular book took place, we feel that Rivers’ remarks back in early May were integral in setting the wheels in motion.

***

With the Red Sox, it’s refreshing to have actual baseball problems to worry about rather than the shenanigans that stunk up the clubhouse the past two years. Instead of chicken and beer or players complaining about the manager, our chief concern is whether the pitching staff will endure. That’s more on par with the topics people want to discuss regarding Boston baseball.

Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03

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