This should be the last mention of Northwestern Oklahoma State on this blog, pending any further developments. But I did think that this situation, with the Rangers being forced to forfeit a first-round win over Friends, merits some discussion and exposes some serious weaknesses in the NAIA.
And in the last week of dealing with this, I’ve actually learned a few things.
Mainly, that there are message boards for NAIA footballon the Victory Sports Network site. Which is cool. And that the people get on them can be as mean as any other level. Which is also cool, in a way. And they definitely duked it out over this issue. One topic thread was just “NWOSU=CHEATERS” which was a little harsh, but funny. It made me think of my old friend Mike Seedborg, who played football with me at Southern Oregon University a few years back (we were good then … now we suck). Dude would get on the message boards for small-college sports on The Oregonian’s web site and give out his phone number to people who he got into it with. You have to know him to love him.
Here we go, final thoughts, numbered-style:
1. The NAIA has a severe credibility issue
This wasn’t the first time an eligibility row has shook up the NAIA playoffs, with Friends on the short end of the stick twice in the last three years, the first time being against Bethel (Tenn.) in 2006. Here’s a simple, simple solution to this problem: RE-CHECK ELIGIBILITY BEFORE THE PLAYOFFS. Any team that even thinks it is going to be in the playoffs needs to have their roster cleared immediately after the end of the regular season. Some teams, like Friends, do this already. Everybody should have to. Memo to the NAIA: STEP YOUR GAME UP.
2. Not playing Carroll was the NAIA’s decision, not Friends
I think Friends wanted to play, but it was not up to them ultimately. The NAIA stepped in and made the practical, correct decision to give Carroll a bye and move onto the semifinals. Had this been uncovered 24 hours earlier … Friends would have played. But they lost three days of preparation to play the No. 1 team in the country and they would have had to track down players that had gone home, to other states, after the team’s final meeting at 4 p.m. on Monday. Not playing shouldn’t reflect on Friends, their players or coaches. But I wouldn’t have minded going to Helena. I hear it’s beautiful this time of year.
3. Taking three players away from NWOSU wouldn’t have made a difference
Beside the point. And a stupid argument. We don’t know what three players that were ineligible, so you can’t say that for certain. But let me pick three players off any football team in the country and we’ll see how that team plays after that. But that doesn’t matter. They shouldn’t have been out there in the first place. What gives in Alva? Which leads me to my final thought/question …
4. Will NWOSU face any further penalty from the NAIA?
I have no idea. But I think they should, right? They not only left Friends out to dry, but embarrassed the NAIA something fierce. For 85 percent of the sports-consuming public, this will be the only thing they hear about the NAIA this season. And that’s too bad.