No-Win Deal for WVSSAC

WHEELING – By issuing an order Tuesday that disqualifies South Charleston from the West Virginia Class AAA playoffs and allows Brooke to forge forward into the finals at 7 p.m. Saturday against Martinsburg, the W.Va. Supreme Court has made a winner out of the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission in terms of being an unchallenged governing body.

There are many out there who have a picture in their minds of WVSSAC Executive Director Gary Ray and members of the organization’s hierarchy sitting around the office in Parkersburg in fur coats, smoking expensive cigars, sipping fine wines and warming themselves by a fire that’s stoked with $100 bills. But not one of those people would have traded places with SSAC leaders Tuesday, because no matter the decision that was made somebody’s innocent kids were going to suffer.

Once the Supreme Court made its thoughts known, there was only three possible outcomes:

  • Allow South Charleston to play, but without the four originally suspended players.
  • Force South Charleston to forfeit and allow Brooke to play for the championship.
  • Disqualify South Charleston and eliminate Brooke, which was beaten on the field by the Black Eagles, thus awarding Martinsburg the title without playing the game.

The problem, though, is somebody who had nothing to do with any of the mess is going to be unjustly punished.

Brooke followed the rules, and although it lost has the right to play in the game because of the letter of the law. Martinsburg’s kids have already suffered, and to a player would not want to essentially occupy a vacant throne.

But the real problem continues to be at South Charleston.

Precedent in such cases had been set a few years ago with Huntington High basketball standout O.J. Mayo, who these days is playing with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies. The Supreme Court ruled then, that the SSAC has all final say in regard to suspensions/ejections.

If the parents of the four suspended Black Eagles players had taken a minute to catch their collective breath before sending this to court, they would have realized from the beginning this would be the outcome. What those adults effectively did, was cheat the other 46 members of the team out of the chance to compete for a state title, something they’ve worked since August to accomplish.

And let’s place some blame at the feet of the South Charleston administrators, who likewise have cheated those kids, and in the process set a terrible example. I continue to use the ‘c’ word, because anything less isn’t doing justice.

If the coach, principal or school board would have stood up immediately for what’s right, we wouldn’t be in this situation. And yes, South Charleston would have lost to Brooke without four of its best players. But those other kids earned, and deserved that chance. They earned the right to compete by complying with the rules set forth, yet still had that opportunity taken away because of the selfish acts of a few.

I’m also wondering exactly why Beckley-based attorney Ben Salango would take a case he couldn’t win. Again, the precedent, right there in black and white, had been set. I would hope Salango had enough scruples to inform the families of said precedent before pocketing their retaining fees.

Along those same lines, Kanawha County Circuit Judge Carrie Webster should be thoroughly taken to task for circumventing the system in the name of a victory for her constituents. There are those who have suggested it was a political move in order to gain votes in the next election. While I don’t agree with that line of thinking, if it was the case I’d be willing to bet there are 46 sets of votes she just lost.

But the real loser in all of this is Martinsburg. No matter the outcome Saturday, the Bulldogs can’t win.

If they should lose on the field, the argument could be made they were put at a disadvantage from the beginning of all this. Should it win, detractors will say Martinsburg didn’t have to face a true test.

However you chose to look at it, three sets of kids have been cheated because of the immature and misguided actions of a small group of adults.

Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at