The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

May 10, 2013

Does Wright deserve its day in court?

By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

— Think about all the judicial training the justices on the Oklahoma Supreme Court have.

Do you think it was to decide whether Wright City should be playing in the Class A state baseball tournament?

That’s exactly what is happening.

The court Monday agreed to hear the case after  Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association announce its intention to appeal a ruling from the McCurtain County District Court Friday.

The McCurtain County court upheld an injunction granting Wright City a temporary restraining order from having to forfeit its first round game with Sterling.

The OSSAA had ruled the Lumberjax had to forfeit because they exceeded the number of games teams are allowed to play.

The courts are not the place to settle this, and never should be.

Rules are in place for a reason. They may not always be fair, but life isn’t fair.

Teams have had to forfeit playoff games in the past because they had broken the rule of playing too many games.

Teams even have had to return championship trophies when it was discovered they had used an ineligible player.

Wright City coach Todd Butler should be commended for his honesty about breaking the rule. The Lumberjax went over the limit after scheduling a game between the district and regional tournaments.

He has proposed he be suspended for the tournament so his team could play.

His feelings are understandable, but they did break the rule. Many other teams, including Stillwater against Enid this past season, canceled games because they would have been over the limit.

Overscheduling is common for baseball teams because of the uncertainity of the weather in Oklahoma. If the weather is good all spring, games are canceled. Wright City added the game that put them over the limit.

Union forfeited a district game against Enid a few years ago because it would have been over the limit.

If it’s an unfair rule, change it. There are processes for this.

Butler used Guthrie football coach Rafe Watkins as an example of why his team should be allowed to play.

Watkins sat out the 2011 playoffs in an agreement to keep Guthrie from having to forfeit eight wins for using an ineligible player.

The Bluejays failed to complete paperwork for senior receiver-safety Clint Simek when he transferred from Prague to Guthrie. The OSSAA ruled Simek didn’t make a bonafide move. There was controversy about the Simeks still having a residence in Prague.

But Watkins did not sue. He and Guthrie worked with OSSAA at an appeal before the organization’s board of directors.

He had urged fans not to attend the session to avoid a media circus.

They did things the right way.

Wright City’s actions basically have destroyed the intergrity of the tournament. Playing three games over three days is a true test to see who has the best team. The No. 2, 3 and probably 4 pitchers are needed. The six teams that did get to play first-round games last week will have an advantage over the Sterling-Wright City winner.

It might be two weeks before the tournament is resumed. At this time of year, that can mess up school graduations or senior trips or kids plans to start summer jobs.

Being off that long can mess up a team’s rhythm. The other seven schools are being punished for Wright City’s rule breaking.

Shawnee threw the Class 5A football semifinals in a tailspin when it sued after it was ruled the Wolves quarterback Tucker Brown had to sit out after being ejected from a game.

 Brown was not the first one to have to do this, but they acted like he was. He was thrown out for kicking an opponent. It was on tape and it didn’t matter if there only were15 seconds left.

That was in the courts for some three weeks before it was thrown out.

Tulsa East Central had to wait some three weeks before getting to play the 5A state championship game. The Cardinals won, but they essentially were punished for Shawnee’s actions. Even worse, Gov. Brad Henry, a Shawnee native, supported the Wolves’ actions.

It sends the wrong message. Do you sue if you don’t like a ref or an umpire’s decision?

The arbritrators for the Class A baseball tournament should be the umpires, not the Supreme Court.

Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.