While everyone has had about a year to really think the process through, one of the challenges in playing a non-traditional season in the spring for many of the small colleges is naming a league champion due to a limited number of games.
However, that's why conferences have handbooks that lay out that process in black and white in the event of a tie breaker, which with COVID restrictions keeping games much closer due to travel, and in leagues like the USA South where teams are located in North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky and Alabama, that is more probable than ever.
According to individuals involved, during a February 10th USA South coaching summit, conference commissioner Tom Hart was reportedly asked, not once, but twice about the tie breaking procedure for crowning a league champion and simply answered "follow the handbook."
As the spring season for the USA South has marched on, the championship picture has gotten a bit muddy, depending on who you ask.
With precautions in travel, the seven-team league decided to split into two divisions. In the East, the picture is clean, with Methodist (D-III - NC) sitting at 3-0 in conference play and 4-0 overall. The West is a bit more complicated. Brevard (D-III - NC) got an extra game in, going 3-1 and Huntington (D-III - AL) went 2-1. To complicate things, both teams have played each other twice, and they split those match ups.
Going into last weekend's game against Maryville, Brevard was operating under the understanding that if they were to win that third conference game, they would be playing in the championship game over a 2-1 Huntington squad. Brevard took care of business with a 14-3 win, but a decision was made to go to the handbook.
...well, kind of.
Under section "I. Declaration of Champion" the conference handbook reads:
- The champion is determined by the best win/loss record against Conference members
- In the event of a tie, the conference champion will be determined by:
a. Head-to-head competition will be compared
b. Competition versus the highest seed team will be compared
c. head-to-head comparisons with the highest seed through the lowest seed
d. In the event of a three-way tie, the NCAA regional ranking following the final games will be used to break the tie between the three teams. This will determine the Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
e. Coin toss
Brevard, who played East division member Averett while Huntingdon did not, contends that since they went 3-1 in league play versus Huntingdon's 2-1 mark, they won 1. That should be the end of the conversation. But Brevard also feels that they've won sections 2a, b, c, and d as well.
For reasons unknown, commissioner Tom Hart decided to skip to section 2e of the handbook which states that a coin flip will determine the champion.
Part of the issue seems to be that since Averett is in the other division of the USA South, that win isn't showing up in the conference wins for Brevard. Same USA South conference, mind you, but different divisions. Notice how the official standings from the website have both Brevard and Huntington at 2-1.
Immediately following last weekend's win over Maryville, Brevard was informed that a coin flip was done that Huntingdon came out on top in and will play Methodist in the conference title game.
But how does that happen? The process for naming a champion is clearly laid out in black and white, and Brevard has the best win/loss record against conference schools, as stated in section 1. Should be end of story, right?
In a season that has already brought loads of adversity, Brevard has every right to ask for answers on this one. The handbooks and procedures are there to lay things out in very easily understood terms, and it certainly seems like Brevard, and the rest of the league, deserve an explanation here.
The USA South title game is set to take place this weekend with Methodist hosting the game.
Below is an actual look at an electronic version of the handbook, as well as a look at the schedules for both Brevard and Huntingdon.
Stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.
Update >>Adding to the intrigue, it appears the USA South website did acknowledge the win over Averett as a conference win at one point before adjusting it over the weekend