Tensions pushing Catholic girls’ hoops leagues further apart

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Can’t they all just get along?

It might be the best way to describe the state of Catholic High School Athletic Association girls’ basketball right now. In recent years, the dioceses appeared to be moving closer to creating a three-tier intersectional league — much like the boys’ league — but the latest struggles with the Catholic state tournament make it seem like peace between the Hatfields and McCoys would be more realistic.

No one is happy under the current state playoff format, which requires each of the four dioceses to send at least one representative to a class AA, A, and B tournaments. Forcing them to come together simply isn’t working, because teams are being asked to move up and drop down from the classification they play in during the regular season.

“Lets make the rule — whatever the rule is — and abide by the rule,” Nazareth coach Ron Kelley said.

League officials unilaterally changed the rules a week before playoffs.

Brooklyn-Queens coaches are upset about the last-minute change. The new rules send the post-season tournament winner to the AA tournament and rewards their fifth and sixth-place finishers with a one-game playoff to go A.

The Archdiocese isn’t in love with the idea of forcing one of its A-league teams to compete in the AA tournament. Up in Buffalo, Cardinal O’Hara, which was a Class-B team two years ago, will be the diocese’s AA representative after winning its regular season title.

“Quite honestly it’s not fair,” Cardinal O’Hara Athletic Director Angelo Sciandra told the Buffalo News back in late January.

It is easy to see the current system must be scrapped next season, and league officials need to take another crack at this. In an ideal world, the Archdiocese (Bronx, Westchester, and Staten Island) and Brooklyn-Queens would form an intersectional league and solve all the problems. With that seeming unlikely, the leagues may need to go back in order to move things forward.

Teams would simply declare before the season what classification they are — like was done prior to the Catholic state tournament’s formation seven years ago. The state playoff format would then be determined based on the number of teams in each classification, much like the state’s independent school athletic association does.

Here are two added rules:

You cannot be a classification lower than your league, and you can moved down from AA to A with league approval if a player suffers a season-ending injury that severely hampers your level of play before Feb. 1. Call it the “Rosalyn Gold-Onwude rule,” because the eventual Stanford standout had that happen to her at Archbishop Molloy.

This format, while not ideal, should limit complaints, because everyone gets to play at the level they want to. No team is being forced to play up or down, and no coach will have to explain the playoff structure to their team more than once. The punch line — “It may change tomorrow” — goes away.

Either the Catholic league officials need to get serious about truly bringing everyone together or they must stop trying to slowly force it to happen. All it is doing is hurting the league’s credibility, hurting the girls, and potentially widening the gap between the parties at be.

Can’t they all get along?

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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