UPDATE: WV Football Playoffs Controversy

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UPDATE 11/10/2014 5:25 PM

A group of football fans here at home called a penalty on the people in charge of setting up the West Virginia football playoffs.

They're upset at how Parkersburg High and Parkersburg South were seeded.

This all has to do with a game last year between Capital and Woodrow Wilson.

Wilson forgot to schedule refs for the game, so no game was played.

Because of that, a group of businessmen and football fans here at home complained about how that changed the playoff picture.

We're finally to the post season but instead of enjoying it, we're faced with controversy.

We spoke with local attorney Pat McFarland Sunday night about how the game changed the playoff picture and what can be done.

The rankings are decided by a point system in which your points are divided by the number of games you've played.

With Woodrow Wilson only playing nine games their point total kept them ahead of PHS, South, and actually bumped Musselman out of the playoffs.

Woodrow Wilson was the home team for the canceled game, which raises concern because their own mistake to get referees actually helped them make the playoffs.

"The explanation for referees not showing up, was that someone from the Mountain State Athletic Conference did not schedule them. However, there were several fail-safe mechanisms to catch that. The rules from the WVSSAC specifically requires that the home team, it requires that both teams confirm and approve the officials that have been appointed to the game, And it requires that the home team, within two weeks before the game, must confirm that the agreement has been made," says McFarland.

Executive Director of the SSAC, Gary Ray, gave an explanation of the events Monday, saying that he personally approved the cancellation of the game, which is unorthodox, but allowed.

There may be cause for an appeal from one of the affected schools, but given the way that the West Virginia Supreme Court has supported the SSAC in its decisions in the past, it's looking like these playoff pairings will stay the way they are.

The final pairings are set for the Class AAA playoffs, but not everyone is please with them. A game between Woodrow Wilson and Capital was canceled earlier in the season, due to the officials not showing up. The outcome was an easier route to the playoffs for Woodrow Wilson, and a tougher draw for Parkersburg, Parkersburg South, and Musselman.

We spoke with local attorney Pat McFarland about the situation (which can be seen above), and Joe Weaver issued a press release, which can be seen below.

Press Release: No officials, no game at Woodrow Wilson – Causes Playoff Implications

Capital High School was scheduled to play Woodrow Wilson in a MSAC football game on October 17, 2014, but the game was canceled after no referees reported due to mistakes made by, among others, officials at Woodrow Wilson High School. The cancelation of this game has ramifications to Parkersburg High School, Parkersburg South High School, and Musselman High School in Innwood (Berkley County) West Virginia.

The final rankings for AAA high school football teams in West Virginia released by the West Virginia Secondary Schools Athletic Commission (SSAC) on Sunday place Woodrow WilsonHigh School (Woodrow Wilson) at No. 14, Parkesburg High School (Parkersburg) at No. 15, Parkersburg South High School (South) at No. 16, and Musselman High School (Musselman) at No. 17. Capital High School (Capital), which ended the season undefeated and as the top ranked team in the state is scheduled to play No. 16 South in Charleston this week in the first round of the West Virginia AAA state football tournament. Parkesburg is scheduled to play No. 2 ranked Cabell Midland High School in Ona. And Woodrow Wilson is scheduled to play No.3 ranked University High School in Morgantown. Musselman is currently the last team out of the tournament. Because of the mistakes made by officials at Woodrow Wilson and others with respect to the October 17, 2014, game between Woodrow Wilson and Capital, one could argue that Woodrow Wilson should be tied with Musselman as the No. 16 ranked school in the state. And, as the argument continues, Musselman has been unfairly shutout of the state playoffs.

The top ranked 16 teams qualify for the state high school playoffs. Teams are ranked by a point system which give a team points by the number of wins they have against certain opponents, plus bonus points for wins against certain opponents by teams they have beaten. A team’s points are divided by the number of games that they played in order to obtain its ranking. Currently, Capital has 154 points, Woodrow Wilson has 82 points. Parkersburg has 90 points. South has 88 points. And Musselman has 82 points. The points earned by Parkersburg (90) and by South (88) are both more than the points earned by Woodrow Wilson (82). But because the game between Capital and Woodrow Wilson was canceled (in part by fault of officials at Woodrow Wilson) Woodrow Wilson’s points are divided by 9 instead of 10; Parkersburg and South both played 10 games. As a result, Woodrow Wilson is ranked ahead of both Parkesburg and South.

SSAC rules and the contract signed between the various schools which play high school football games both require that the teams agree upon the referees assigned to a particular game. In addition, both also require that the home team (Woodrow Wilson in this instance) confirm at least 2 weeks before each game that the teams have agreed on the officials. Woodrow Wilsondid not do either of these things. Had they do so, the fact that no referees were assigned to the game would have been recognized. Woodrow Wilson was at fault for this situation. And, one must ask if it is fair that Woodrow Wilson now seeks to benefit from its own misdeeds?

To be fair, officials from the Mountain State Athletic Conference (MSAC) share some blame because they failed to schedule referees for the Woodrow Wilson -- Capital game. That fact, however, does not relieve Woodrow Wilson from their required duties. Regardless, the MSCA offered to cover the expense for playing the game on Saturday, but Woodrow Wilson refused to insist that the game be played. WVSCA rules provides that a football game which has been contracted for can only be canceled upon mutual agreement of the parties. So, if Woodrow Wilson wanted to play the game it could have insisted on playing the game. Would Capital have played the game or would it have risked forfeiting the game and thereby ruin a perfect undefeated season? Is there any doubt that Capital would have played the game had Woodrow Wilson insisted on playing?

SSAC rules require that for a canceled game not to count against the rankings the cancellation has to be both mutually agreed to by the teams (which it was in this instance -- so there is a valid cancelation under SSAC rules) and approved by the SSAC board of directors. So although there may be a valid cancelation so as to avoid sanctions for breach of the contract signed to play the game, the game still counts toward the rankings unless the cancelation was also approved by the SSAC board of directors at a legally noticed and lawfully conducted meeting...approval by an administrator does not suffice.

SSAC rules require that minutes of the meetings of its board of directors must be provided to member schools. There has been no indication from officials at either Parkersburg High School, Parkersburg South High School, or from the central office for the Wood County Board of Education that such minutes or a corresponding resolution from the SSAC’s board of directors exists that shows that the SSAC’s board of directors approved cancelation of the game, or that the board voted on this issue at a legally noticed and lawfully conducted meeting.

One can advocate therefore that Capital and Woodrow Wilson's respective rankings should be determined by 10 games instead of 9. Capital would not be affected (154/10 = 15.4) keeps them ranked as the top team in the state. But Woodrow Wilson's ranking would drop to 8.2 (82/10)and would put Woodrow Wilson in a tie with Musselman for the No. 16th and final playoff spot. And, it appears that Woodrow Wilson would win the tiebreaker over Musselman.

The tiebreaker plan consists of five levels. First is the number of bonus points a team receives as a result of games won by opponents whom a team has beaten; both Woodrow Wilson and Musselman have 10 bonus points. The second tiebreaker is the percentage of wins versus losses. Musselman was 6-4 and Woodrow Wilson was 6-3. But if the canceled game is counted against the rankings as required by SSAC rules because the cancelation of the Capital game was not approved by the SSAC’s board of directors, both Musselman and Woodrow Wilson would have a 60% wins to loss ratios based on 10 games. The third level for the tiebreaker plan considers the team’s respective record against common opponents. Musselman and Woodrow Wilson had two common opponents (Oak Hill High School and Hedgesville High School) and they both won each game. Woodrow Wilson finally comes out on top over Musselman during the fourth level tiebreaker; points scored minus points allowed. Woodrow Wilson scored 100 more points than it allowed; 259 scored and 159 allowed. Whereas Musselman scored 81 points more than it allowed; 353 scored and 272 allowed. That leaves a 19 point difference. BUT......that may not be the end of the story!

Does not one need to consider the possibility that the 19 point difference may have been evaporated had Woodrow Wilson played Capital? Again, that game was canceled in part because of the fault of Woodrow Wilson. And, Woodrow Wilson had just been soundly beaten by Parkersburg 24-0 the week before. Regardless, had Capital beaten Woodrow Wilson by 20 points or more, Musselman would make the playoffs instead of Woodrow Wilson. Capital was undefeated at the time (Woodrow Wilson was 3-3) and had an average margin of victory of 35 points per game; against opponents ranked similarly to that of Woodrow Wilson, Capital’s average margin of victory was 43 points per game. Is it hard to imagine that Capital would have beaten Woodrow Wilson by at least 20 points? Furthermore, it was reported on the statewide radio program hosted by Fred Persinger which airs every Friday night during the high school football season that Woodrow Wilson was missing 5 starters for the Capital game. If that is true, is hard to imagine a loss by 20 points or more points? And, more importantly, are the reasons given for not wanting to wait for replacement officials to arrive later in the evening of the game, or for not playing the game the next day (Saturday October 17, 2014) valid reasons? Particularly in light of the fact that the MSAC offered to pick up the expense associated with playing such a make-up game? How likely is it that Woodrow Wilson, which had a 3-3 record at the time, and which had just come off a resounding 24-0 loss to Parkersburg the week before, and who may have been down 5 starters, suspected that its chances to make the playoffs would be enhanced if they refused to play Capital? What are the kids who play for Musselman supposed to think about that?

The fifth and final tie breaker is decided by blind draw. Is that not a more appropriate method to determine Musselman’s playoff fate given the circumstances presented?

Again, SSAC rules require approval from its board of directors in order for a game not to be count against ranking. Woodrow Wilson is at fault under WVSSAC rules for not confirming/approving officials. Woodrow Wilson chose not to play the game -- a game they in all likelihood would have lost by a substantial margin. And, Parkersburg beat Woodrow Wilson 24-0. Does not fairness mandate that Parkersburg be ranked No. 14, South (which lost to Parkersburg too) ranked No. 15, and Woodrow Wilson be ranked at No. 16. Or, as just stated, use a blind draw between Woodrow Wilson and Musselman for that final spot?

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