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Forget the diamonds, county gets the shaft

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By Mike Farner

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - Over the past 33 years, I have seen some of the best that high school athletics has to offer.

There have been heroic efforts, teamwork, undying determination and dogged determination put forth by Bullitt Countians in the athletic arena, most notably on the high school stage. Mixed in were a few shortcomings and dark days. That is the way it works in the sports world. We all live to fight another day.

Last week was one of the worst times for local sports. Through no fault of anyone locally, the Bullitt County sports landscape was ripped apart by a poorly thought out and ill-conceived vote by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Board of Control that will have Bullitt County teams competing in different districts for basketball starting next season.

While the KHSAA Board of Control should shoulder much of the blame for this atrocity because they led both Bullitt and Jefferson County administrators to believe that Bullitt East, Bullitt Central and North Bullitt were going to be moved out of the Louisville regions, there is also the point that the Board of Control could only vote on the proposal put before them. That was the piece of legislation that someone in Jefferson County wrote who thought it was a good idea to split the local teams into separate districts.

The Board of Control could have just voted to maintain the present alignment since a 'major' realignment is set for the 2013-2014 school year, but instead decided to tick-off as many fans as possible with a move they didn't have to make.

This really was the perfect storm of bad events. If the three Bullitt County schools had been moved out of the Sixth and Seventh Regions as they wanted, then everything would have been fine. If they had been forced to stay for two more years under the present format they could have lived with that to some extent.

But, the Bullitt County schools were forced to stay in the insane asylum as the inmates were taking control. It was that self-appointed realignment that split the local schools into different districts and that infuriated local fans.

While all three schools are being moved to the Seventh Region, North Bullitt and Bullitt Central will now compete in the 27th District while Bullitt East will be in the 28th.

Whoever drew up the new alignment had to actually sit there and look at the map and say to themselves 'Moore is only four miles from Fern Creek, but let's put them in a different district with two schools in another county.' Just switching Moore and Bullitt East would have kept the negatives on this agreement to a minimum.

(The vote at this point covers basketball only, but it is believed that a second vote in April will carry over the basketball alignment to at least baseball and softball and could also include volleyball and perhaps even soccer.)

Bullitt County schools want out of the two Louisville regions and have since the day in 2004 they were uprooted from the Eighth Region and put into the Sixth (again, without any consultation). That is no secret to anyone in Shepherdsville, Louisville or Lexington (home of the KHSAA).

What is causing the great consternation and bitterness now is that the three schools were put into different districts without their consent or even any input.

One of the reasons that Bullitt County's schools want out of the Louisville regions is that they have no voice in what happens at the regional level. At least in the present district, the local programs feel they have some voice with Fairdale and Southern.

Now, even that has been taken away. Bullitt County presently has no hope of ever hosting a regional event. Starting next year, it is possible they will have no chance of hosting a district event for the next two years. It is not hard to imagine Evangel voting with Southern and Moore to have the two Louisville schools host the next two 27th District events. You don't have to be a math wiz to see that Bullitt East needs two voting partners to get a district tournament one of the next two seasons.

If this was thought to be a long-term deal, then maybe fair rotations could be worked out. With it being perceived as a two-year deal, there is no reason for an all-for-one mentality. The addition of the other sports might help as there would be more district events on the table to split. As long as it is basketball only, Bullitt County might want to keep some buses filled with gas for the post-season.

This is really the case of a second misguided decision on top of the one the KHSAA made in 2004 that moved the three Bullitt County schools out of the Eighth Region and into the Sixth Region. Now, through a rushed and unnecessary realignment of the Sixth and Seventh Region, Bullitt County's schools not only get shuffled for the third time in six years, but now find themselves in different districts for the first time in history, in any sport (in which they compete in the same size grouping).

As always, two wrongs still don't make a right.

The news was shocking when the email from the KHSAA arrived last Tuesday and was made public later that day. As the accompanying story describes, Bullitt County's efforts over the past six months was to get out of Louisville athletics, not be part of a realignment argument that favors the east end schools in Jefferson County.

On Wednesday, the three Bullitt County athletic directors were trying to be as diplomatic as possible in a tough situation. They have to work with their new district partners and have to schedule games with a number of teams in Jefferson County no matter what region or district they are in.

"We would have preferred that it worked out a different way," North Bullitt athletic director Bill Robinette said. "I'm not sure why they thought they needed to split up the Bullitt County schools.

"We did send a letter to the KHSAA," Robinette said. "I would have to say we were ignored."

"In the short-term, I don't see why we are going to change now if we're going to change again in two years," Bullitt East's Bob Blackburn said. "Why would we want to be in four different regions over ten years?"

"To stay in the Sixth and Seventh regions was a surprise," Bullitt Central's Mark Rogers said. "We felt good that we were going to move out."

The job of those athletic directors is to put a positive spin on the news. I don't have those limitations.

That is why without any hesitation I can say that the KHSAA and the Board of Control botched this whole process to the detriment of all three local schools. They have turned an already bad situation worse and with little gain for anyone else in the mix.

Often in situations like these, you can see who the winners and losers are. I only see the Bullitt County schools as the losers. I really don't see anyone winning when it comes to splitting the Bullitt County schools into separate districts.

This whole process was short sighted, poorly handled and an insult to Bullitt County's administrators, coaches and fans. There was actually more input locally to the proposal that was shot down a year ago than the one that was passed last week, even though one of the reasons the Board of Control said they voted against the original proposal was because they wanted more input from the affected schools.

In addition, a realignment proposal for the Sixth and Seventh Regions three years out from the upcoming 'major' realignment of the entire state was voted down by the KHSAA. Now, we're two years away and they rush to make changes. That is just idiotic.

You have to wonder if anyone at the KHSAA knows how to spell 'rivalry' or 'tradition'. They certainly didn't take any of those important words into account with this undertaking.

Bullitt East boys' head coach and assistant athletic director Troy Barr wasn't quite as diplomatic.

"There are a lot of things I can say about it," Barr said on Thursday after his team beat former Eighth Region rival South Oldham. "Number one, it's not quite a travesty, but it sure is close.

"I'm not talking about Bullitt East, but Bullitt County in general," the coach added. "We get treated like a red-headed step child in Jefferson County and the KHSAA doesn't understand that."

By not moving out of the Louisville regions, Bullitt County, by default, is also part of an odd Sixth and Seventh Region realignment that smacks of gerrymandering and favoring schools on the east end. I have no idea why any school west of I-65 (other than Manual) would think the new Sixth and Seventh Region breakdown is an improvement over what they already had. Talk about a bunch of sheep if they signed off on this agreement.

Anyone wishing to comment on this situation is welcome to write to the Pioneer News at editor@pioneernews.net or you can address a letter to The Pioneer News, P.O. Box 98, Shepherdsville, Ky. 40165 or you can drop off your comments at either our office in Shepherdsville or Mount Washington.