Galena has no business in baseball playoffs

Just when you thought you could plan your life around this week's Northern 4A Zone baseball tournament (and believe us, we did), the whole thing got messed up, then supposedly got fixed.

We're not talking David Lee Roth messed up, which is more parts dementia than it is chaos - this is a full-blown case of insanity that only a neurotic like George Costanza could appreciate.

In a matter of days, Galena High School went from the tourney's No. 2 seed to a playoff window shopper thanks to 11 forfeited games. Then an administrative panel reversed the verdict and ruled the Grizzlies only had to forfeit two games, restoring them to the second seed.

And, as is usually the case when someone doesn't have to be accountable for their mistakes, an innocent third party got the shaft.

It all started Tuesday, when the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association ruled the Grizzlies' Josh Green had played in 11 games as an ineligible player. The NIAA found that Green was flunking a course at the district's occupational center, one he was taking for credit as a student at Galena.

It also ruled that the school had not properly monitored his progress, and so the school was forced to forfeit those 11 games.

In other words, Green was supposedly failing a course while playing some fantastic baseball, and nobody had bothered to check his report card.

Galena appealed the decision at the administrative level on Wednesday, and a verdict was rendered Thursday that reversed the decision.

The team's attorney argued neither the player nor the school were properly notified that Green was flunking the class, and thus he wasn't given the allotted one probationary week to get his academic house in order.

Which, of course, leads to the most salient question: How does a student not know he's flunking a class? We've all been to high school, and we all realized too late that it takes far more skill to flunk a class than ace it.

In the administrative appeal ruling, the panel decided a March 3 grade check was not official, since it occurred prior to Galena's first official game, thus making the 24th the earliest grade check.

Factoring in the week's probation, Galena would've lost Green for a week, which means two wins that week were turned to losses.

So Galena gets its No. 2 seed back. In the meantime, Sparks High got treated worse than Martha Stewart at a NASCAR race.

Sparks had originally qualified for the playoffs as the No. 8 seed after winning a tiebreaker with Lowry and Reed. But in a dramatic twist too cruel even for Shakespeare, the two games Galena forfeited were against - you guessed it - Lowry and Reed.

When the dust cleared, Reed made the playoffs, and Sparks got a $2 certificate of participation to show for a playoff season.

Galena's appeal was supposedly about fairness, but where is the fairness for Sparks in the resulting decision? Galena would likely have beaten Lowry and Reed in those games without Green, but the Railroaders are now forced out on a technicality - and they didn't break the rules.

Galena can blame the Washoe School District all it likes, but the fact remains that Green is a student at Galena, and Galena is responsible for making sure he's passing his classes before he takes the field. Maybe Galena can blame the school district legally, but that still doesn't make it right.

I liked the NIAA's first verdict a whole lot better, when Galena had to forfeit 11 games. This new watered-down version of justice only encourages administrative incompetence, though I suspect the NIAA was not overjoyed about possible litigation that would've followed a verdict unfavorable to Galena.

If Galena's baseball team missed the playoffs due to poor grade accountability, the outrage alone would've prevented this from happening again - guaranteed.

"But what about the kids that kept their grades up?" they cry.

We tell them it's their school's fault, and that it's Josh Green's fault. Does letting Galena back in temper the sting of eliminating Sparks? As the NIAA searched for a way to be fair to Galena's other players, did it factor in fairness to Sparks - or is it not policy to side with the team without a lawyer?

The blame has to lie with Galena, and if forced to choose between a school that played by the rules and one that didn't, the choice should be clear.

But in this age of zero-culpability, we concoct solutions where nobody shoulders the blame, including the student. And in turn, the NIAA has sent the subliminal message that the threat of litigation can erase a multitude of academic sins, even if it's over something as trivial as a baseball game.

Green had to know he was failing the course, and he should have said something.

Galena knew on March 3 that Green was failing. So which is a worse explanation for what followed: Galena was out touch with Green's academic progress, or Galena didn't follow up on that large "unofficial" red flag?

Grade checks should happen weekly at the very least, let alone three weeks. Letting Galena get away with this tells students that winning is more important than grades.

The NIAA should close up that loophole in its rules as well. Better yet, it can make this rule: If a retroactive forfeit knocks another team out of the playoffs, the guilty team is out of the postseason - period.

And while the Grizzlies may have a happy baseball team again, what the school calls an "oversight" caused some genuine heartache over in Sparks. From a sports perspective, that's the most disappointing thing about this whole fiasco.

If I were Sparks, I'd be hiring one of those team attorneys right about now. I suppose everyone else is doing it.

Jeremy Littau is the Nevada Appeal sports editor. Write to him at jjleditor@yahoo.com.

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