Awarding co-state basketball championships is the best resolution if the CIF basketball finals can’t be postponed (column)

On the morning of Thursday, March 12th, the CIF announced its decision to cancel the state basketball championships that were to be played on Friday and Saturday at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento due to numerous concerns regarding the coronavirus.

If the finals could in any way be postponed, that would obviously be ideal. While one can hold out hope, the CIF’s wording that the rest of the postseason is canceled seems to eliminate the possibility. Therefore, I believe that it would only be fair to award co-state championships in some manner.

Searching for reasons that these kids and their programs who made the state finals should be denied even partial consolation, the best reason I can think of is that it theoretically wouldn’t be fair to past state champions who had to win that last game or go home with no title.

At the same time, being awarded co-championships would still pale in comparison with getting to play a finals game (at Golden 1 Center no less) and winning it all. If you gave the 12 state finalists the choice between a co-championship or the opportunity to play for all the marbles, all 12 of them would choose the latter.

Some kind of resolution is warranted for these kids who have worked their entire lives to get to the level they are at and earned the right to the experience what those before them have had. Declaring co-championships would be far from even getting the opportunity for the 50% chance of winning it all, and far from one last chance for the seniors to step on a basketball court in an organized setting that means anything, but it would be something.

To be sure, these players will never lose the regional titles or the memories and experiences of all their postseason games and success. Some might counter what I’m advocating for by saying that those benefits alone are immense and can never be taken away, which is true.

That said, it’s already undeniable that every one of these kids has earned his or her trip to Sacramento, last four quarters of basketball, and shot at winning it all. But what’s even more important is that for those who care more about bringing a state title to their schools and programs than the individual ride, letting it all die out here would suggest that it was indeed for nothing. Don’t leave the kids hanging who have laid it all out on the line with the bar set as highly as possible for their schools.

For players at the Archbishop Mitty’s, Sierra Canyon’s, Bishop O’Dowds, and Rosary Academy’s of the world, for instance, the expectations are indeed higher than 99% of the rest of the high school basketball world. League, sectional, and regional titles are not taken for granted, but there is no reason to expect not to compete for state championships.

Rosary Academy was slated to compete for a Division 1 girls basketball championship, which they won last year too. Athletic director Tom Tice told Scorebook Live that in his opinion, “a co-championship makes sense. I hope the CIF State office re-evaluates their initial decision. As special as a regional championship is, these kids play to win state. I would guess if the Olympic final of a sport had to be canceled, they would award two gold medals. This feels like two silvers, or bronzes, more accurately. Every league we play in figures out a way to award championships; to give no championship for a tournament that was building towards one certainly feels awkward at this point.”

Michael Arnold is the father of four standout basketball players at Palisades, three of whom are on the varsity girls basketball team that was slated to take on Oakland Tech for the Division II title on Saturday. Sammie, a junior, is a starting wing and one of their top players, and PF/Cs Taylor and Elise have both made major contributions as freshmen. As a player in his high school days, Michael both lost and won state title games, so he has the perspective from all angles, and doesn’t see why co-championships would be out of order.

“All my girls keep saying is ‘we just want the opportunity to compete…we worked so hard to get here, and some girls for four years.’ Why not provide them with some happiness in this difficult time? It’s a memory they will cherish the rest of their life. When we lost my sophomore year we used it as motivation for my junior year when we won it. The feeling of cutting down the nets, the feeling of winning with your teammates who have put in so much work, with all the blood sweat and tears you have shared…it’s about the journey, not the destination, but in this context the destination will have innumerable effects on these kids’ lives in the future.

“Why not promote and acknowledge their success? You want to take their pain away and shield them from it while all at the same time explaining how life isn’t fair, but can’t we be better then that in this circumstance?”

If those who have made it all the way to the top before think that these state finalists deserve something better than a cliffhanger, then nobody loses by awarding co-championships.

Thank you for joining the discussion on SBLive!

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