E.A. Sports Today

Saving the tournament

AHSAA’s plan for region play in spring sports could threaten the Calhoun County Tournament; local admin: ‘It would be a shame if we didn’t do everything we could … to preserve the tradition’

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

When the AHSAA Central Board of Control approved the change from area to region play for spring sports starting in 2023 last month it immediately got the attention of the coaches.

While the idea might be great on some fronts, it presented issues on others. Chief among their concerns was finding ways to fit all the games that could possibly be played into an already tight calendar. Will they play three-game series? Maybe simple home-and-homes? There are only so many weeks in the spring. It has the potential to leave little room for anything else.

Like spring break trips. And county tournaments.

The Calhoun County Tournament program is one of the best and best-known in the state, but if the state’s plan comes to fruition there may not be a place for the week-long baseball and softball tournaments that are the highlights of their respective season.

Even though the region plan has been approved, AHSAA officials have said nothing will be formalized until the board’s May 23 meeting after the spring sports championships. If a plausible alternative is presented, those officials have said, the plan could be changed.

However it goes, Calhoun County administrators are determined to do “everything possible” to make sure the county tournaments continue without interruption.

“I think we’ll sit down and work really hard to make sure we provide those experiences for those kids,” said Weaver principal Andy Keith, the outgoing tournament series host principal. “These county tournaments are very important to the coaches and the kids, so I think we will do everything possible with the (Calhoun County Principals and Coaches Association) to make sure we have some form of county tournament for the kids and the coaches.

“We want to make sure the kids have the experience to play at JSU and Choccolocco (Park) and they have the experience to play softball at Woodland or Choccolocco or whatever they decide to do. The kids love it, the atmosphere is great, the people come out, it’s just a really good time for the kids and the coaches enjoy it, so I think we’ll do whatever we can to make sure we have some form of county tournament for all the sports and keep that intact.”

The subject likely will be discussed when administrators meet Wednesday at Wellborn to conduct end of year business, install Wellborn principal Andy Carpenter as the new chairman and introduce next year’s county tournament calendar.

The baseball tournament typically is played early in the season when some teams have yet to play a game and while that creates seeding issues it’s a better alternative than late in the year when teams are busy setting up their playoff pitching. The softball tournament is played in early April during a stretch when all the other spring county championships are held.

Both tournaments draw well and bring each school a small dividend through the program’s revenue sharing plan.

“I haven’t been in Calhoun County very long, but I have been here long enough to know the Calhoun County Tournament is really, really important to the people of Calhoun County,” Carpenter said. “Winning that tournament and being competitive in those tournaments means a lot. It would be a shame if we didn’t do everything we could to preserve that for all of our sports.

“We’ve just got to figure out a way to make it happen. This is important to a lot of people. When you start talking about there’s a chance we may not this and a chance we may not that, go back on a lot of years on things that are important to a lot of people. I can’t imagine we would not find a way to make it happen. What that looks like I don’t know, but we’ll do everything we can to preserve the tradition that has been in place for so long.”

Maybe they’re all played as season-openers and seeded on reputation. Spreading it out across various weeks would negate the tournament feel and just turn it into a series of games with somebody tracking the results.

Oxford athletics director Larry Davidson is a passionate advocate of the county tournament program. He would be disappointed to see any interruption.

“I think they’re special and I think they’re special especially here in Calhoun County because the county tournaments in Calhoun County are second to none,” he said. “Everybody knows about the basketball tournament, it’s known all over the state, but our fall and spring county tournaments are second to none.

“I’m hoping there’s a way to protect it. I’m hoping we can preserve it. I’m 100 percent in favor of us having it. We’ve made them the best around and I hope we could continue those. I’m sure our coaches will make decisions that’s best to make that happen.”

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