The N.C. High School Athletic Association enforced its rules Wednesday when it eliminated Greensboro Dudley from the state 4A football playoffs. There was no other fair action.
Dudley was undefeated and was the top seed in the NCHSAA 4A West bracket. It also was the 2013 state 4A champion. The playoffs are less because the Panthers are out.
But it is the right decision even though it is a sad one.
Jamestown Ragsdale, the No. 16 seed in the 4A West, was paired against Dudley and will advance to the second round against the winner of a game between Mooresville (10-1) and Charlotte Vance (8-3).
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Dudley had appealed its penalties to the NCHSAA executive committee. The committee deliberated at length, but denied the appeal on Wednesday morning.
Dudley used four ineligible players in Friday’s regular-season finale, a 50-21 victory over Southeast Guilford. The players were eligible to play in the junior varsity game on Thursday and played, but were ineligible to play in Friday’s game.
They could play in either, but not both.
And playing in this case means putting on a uniform and being with the team on the sidelines. The NCHSAA established that rule back in the 1970s after trying to ascertain from game films if an ineligible player at unbeaten North Duplin had gotten onto the field in various games.
There was no question Dudley used ineligible players. The game was forfeited.
Dudley would have advanced to the playoffs as the All-Metro 4A Conference champion with a 9-1 record despite the forfeit, except the game was forfeited after the playoff bracket was set.
The NCHSAA has a rule that states, “the team shall not participate in playoffs if, after the brackets have been finalized, forfeited contests cause an adjustment in its record and seed.”
The rule was established to give the playoff bracket stability. Reseeding the bracket would change pairings. During deliberations when the rule was established, the board of directors talked about if it made a difference whether the association learned of a forfeit on Monday or on Thursday.
If the bracket is reseeded, teams might have made preparations to play one team at home, but suddenly be playing someone else on the road.
The NCHSAA board chose stability. Once the bracket was finalized on Sunday, the bracket was set. Forfeits after the bracket is set results in a team being eliminated.
Eliminating a team for dressing four players, only one of whom played in the game and for only two plays, is harsh. To some, the decision is ridiculously Draconian, a severe penalty for a minor offense.
But even more ridiculous would have been for the NCHSAA to ignore its rules.