Section 6 Shouldn’t Change Rules On Thunderdragons

One great thing about sports is that the rules, aside from some minor changes, stay the same year after year.

You’re not going to go to a high school football game this fall to find it suddenly takes 15 yards to be given a first down or that both teams will have nine downs before they have to punt.

If the rules on the field are the same from year to year, they should be the same off the field from year to year too.

That doesn’t seem to be the case with Section 6, the governing body of high school sports in Western New York. Recently, the Section 6 Executive Committee notified Chautauqua Lake Central Schools that a merger between the school’s football team and that of Maple Grove Junior-Senior High School that has been approved three times won’t be approved for 2016-17 school year unless Maple Grove-Chautauqua Lake plays in Class B with bigger schools. Ben Spitzer, district superintendent, and Josh Lidell, secondary principal and athletic director, told Chautauqua Lake school board members there was no reason to deny the merger other than the merged team wins too much in Class C.

What hogwash.

We remember the difficulty Chautauqua Lake had convincing Maple Grove parents to accept the merged team in the first place. The merger wasn’t even driven by the varsity teams. A search through our archives shows the initial proposal came because Chautauqua Lake didn’t have enough football players to field a junior varsity team and knew Maple Grove was nearly to that point. There were several meetings involving parents concerned with all of the familiar old tropes – schools would lose their athletic identity and logo, loss of sports booster money and community interaction, travel time and the like. Maple Grove parents were ready to say no and take the risk that the school would have no junior varsity program, meaning less playing time for their children. It wasn’t as if Chautauqua Lake asked to merge and Maple Grove jumped immediately at the offer because they wanted to win at all costs. Nowhere in those discussions was the merged team’s possible win-loss record discussed. Nobody started popping champagne or taking players’ ring sizes for all of the championships they were about to win.

Section 6 approved the merger then because the schools needed to make sure they had enough students to play safely. The merged school was then slotted appropriately based on its combined size. We ask Section 6, then, has anything changed since this merger was first approved in 2013? If not, then the Section 6 Executive Committee should approve the team’s merger to play in the team’s designated class.

Rules should be rules. Making the merger contingent on playing up a class is like making Maple Grove-Chautauqua Lake have to gain 15 yards instead of 10 for a first down. It simply makes no sense.