Imagine the outcry if the NFL knowingly played the Super Bowl on a field that was only 95 yards long. In the state of Georgia, it apparently wasn’t so important to provide a regulation court for the high school teams that played for state championships over the past week in Macon.
The stanchions that supported the basketball hoops at the Georgia High School Association’s state title games were set too far out of bounds, GHSA coordinator of basketball Ernie Yarbrough confirmed to the Marietta Daily Journal. That means the kids were shooting longer free throws and jump shots in the biggest game of the year.
Even more shocking, GHSA officials said they knew the hoops weren’t set up correctly inside Macon Coliseum, but because it would take an hour to properly align them and the tournament was already behind schedule, they opted to leave the baskets in the wrong position and let the kids figure it out along the way, the report added.
“I went to the officials and told them, ‘I don’t care how long it takes to fix it, but we should get it right for our kids,'” Allatoona High School boys basketball coach Markus Hood told the Daily Journal. He said he told officials about the hoops before their AAAAA championship game, but nothing was done.
Kyle Sandy, who covers Georgia high school basketball for HoopSeen, wrote a recap of the tournament on his personal website, bringing the event’s many flaws to light. Pieces of the court didn’t connect properly, padding was hanging off the backboard and the team buses were charged for parking, among other problems.
“Having the hoops too far back is just another black eye for the GHSA in what has been a rough basketball season for the governing body,” Sandy told Breslanta. “Not only were free throws and three-pointers made longer, there was no room to gather a rebound inside and players were constantly landing out of bounds. There was no space for players to make an impact on the low block. Poor shooting percentages littered the weekend and turnovers skyrocketed.”
And if you’re wondering what the change in distance did to the shooters, the Daily Journal said the 28 teams that played in state championship games shot just 59 percent from the free-throw line and only made 20 percent of their three-pointers.
In a statement, GHSA executive director Gary Phillips said the results will stand, despite the fact that the games were not played on regulation courts.
The goals were the same distance into the court at both ends of the floor. The playing conditions were exactly the same for both teams on the court and for all of the 14 championship games that were played. So I can’t see any reason we would consider changing the outcomes.
Only one coach even mentioned a possible problem, and my basketball staff watched the games closely and did not notice any appreciable effect on the shooting or the play of any of the teams. Some of the teams even shot extremely well from both the floor and the free throw line. But, overall, it looked like typical championship play.
While this certainly was not an ideal situation or one that we wanted to happen, we think the conditions were fair for all the teams. And, more importantly, it was the same for all the teams. We have plans to make sure this never happens again, but we have no plans to change anything that happened this week in Macon.
Perhaps it’s time for the state to reconsider the decision to host this tournament near the geographic middle of the state since Macon struggles to provide a regulation court for the biggest games of the year. The best high school football teams in the state get to play their championship at the Georgia Dome, so why should the best basketball teams get “rewarded” with a game on bad courts, shooting on bad hoops?
“Somebody should lose their job,” Scott Bursmith, former principal and head basketball coach at Allatoona, told the Daily Journal. “It means everyone was taking 16-foot free throws. The scene from ‘Hoosiers’ doesn’t hold true. In Georgia, the baskets aren’t the same distance they are everywhere else. I think everybody that played on the unregulation court should share the state title.”
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