Some people – like our U.S. President-Elect and, apparently, like the NCAA Division I Football Playoff Selection Committee – seem to believe that all publicity, no matter how negative, is good publicity. If it draws attention to your candidacy or championships series, no matter how embarrassing, it’s okay – even good.
That’s not the belief of the Michigan High School Athletic Association. As an organization that must too often do unpopular things, like enforce rules that others don’t and impose penalties that others won’t, the MHSAA prefers to avoid creating controversy where there are options to do so.
The structure of MHSAA tournaments provides some options.
Tournaments which exclude no teams or individuals provoke less controversy than those with a limited field. Tournaments which favor no teams through a seeding scheme cause fewer arguments.
If our only purpose were to increase revenues, there is much we could do to gerrymander MHSAA tournaments in order to shorten, smooth out and straighten the tournament trail for the teams with the best records and biggest crowds during the regular season, like the NCAA women’s and NIT men’s basketball tournaments do.
But if fairness – blind, boring impartiality – is more important to us, then we will not force the teams with the poorest regular season records to face off in bracket rat-tails and we will not provide the teams with the best regular season records a tournament trail that avoids similar teams for as long as possible.
This approach opens us to criticism that we are dumb to be different and stupid to reject the revenue-generating practices of major college and professional sports organizations. But no one can claim we are unfair.
It’s not unfair to treat all schools the same. The unfairness begins – and real controversy follows – when an organization tries to favor some teams over others.