By Ray Hamill — While it has been a challenging couple of years for everyone involved with local sports, for the most part the H-DNL has done a commendable job navigating through very unique circumstances.
This week, however, the league shortchanged student athletes and fans with the decision to play both Dick Niclai championship games simultaneously on Friday night at different sites, a decision that has not only left many people frustrated, but one that appears to make no sense at all.
According to league commissioner Jack Lakin, the scheduling was finalized at the most recent league meeting on Jan. 19 and all H-DNL schools were involved with the decision making process and “had an opportunity to express concerns and participated in reaching consensus or voting on proposed changes.”
“Having the championship games on different days was briefly discussed,” Lakin said. “However, at the time of the meeting, there were no spectators allowed and the league anticipated if a change was made by the superintendents it would probably be very restrictive.
“With the prospect of having few or no spectators, none of the league schools pursued a discussion for playing on separate nights and no motion was made to make a change from the current format.”
The restriction on the number of fans allowed at these games (four per competitor) is questionable enough on its own, while it seems a little ridiculous that small student sections are currently banned in the H-DNL (for winter sports) while elsewhere in the state they’re hosting a Super Bowl this weekend.
But regardless of those decisions, there’s no excuse for playing what are arguably the two most anticipated games on the annual H-DNL sporting calendar at the same time.
There is no valid reason why the championship games couldn’t be played on Friday and Saturday — and still give teams and coaches plenty of time to file the necessary paperwork with the NCS for playoff consideration — or even stagger the starting times and play at 6 and 8 on the same night.
Even if the number of spectators is still limited, it would at least give fans the opportunity to watch both games online and not have to choose.
The Arcata Tigers, in particular, have reason to feel slighted, with their girls team traveling to Eureka for their championship game and their boys hosting McKinleyville in their championship game.
According to Lakin, the league “discussed the challenges” of having both games at either Lumberjack Arena, as usual, or at College of the Redwoods, but voted unanimously to play them at school sites.
After all the challenges and restrictions caused by the pandemic (and decision makers) over the past 24 months, this week’s scheduling is another cruel blow for the student athletes, their coaches, their parents and fans around the North Coast.
Unlike many of the challenges we have faced recently, this could have — and should have — been avoided.