Opinion: ‘Playing down’ for any reason should not be tolerated

Dear Editor,

After reading the accounts of a recent Friday night football game at Ty Cobb Stadium, I realized that they saw the game from a different “perspective” than I did. It was the semi-finals of the New York State Class “D” Championships. It was the first trip for No. 1 ranked C. S. P., a combined team from Section VI in western New York made up of the Clymer, Sherman and Panama school districts.  

No. 2 ranked Tioga, of Section IV, was making trip number seven in the last eight years. They were nine wins two losses, and C. S. P. was undefeated at 11-0.

Historically, Section VI has strong teams as does Section IV, and Tioga’s schedule this year included five games with larger schools, four Class “C” and one “B”. Tioga will play anybody anywhere anytime. We don’t mind playing “up” to get better, but when it really counts it’s important to know the “playing field is level”. 

There are rules that govern the five classifications that schools must fit into. “Fairness” dictates they must be adhered to and “integrity” reinforces that. The total high school enrollment of boys and girls must fall within parameters set for each classification from double “AA” the largest, down to “D” the smallest. “Playing down” for any reason should not be tolerated.  

Transfers can also be a problem. If the rules are not followed properly, there could be consequences as well. If you sense I see “red flags” here you would be right.  

I can’t put my finger on it, but the only other time I have ever seen us so ineffective was the 2016 opener at Chenango Forks following our only State Championship season in 2015. Forks was the defending State Champion in Class “B” and beat us 55-12 on their way to another state title. We went on to suffer our worst season in memory, 3-7. It was the only time in the last eight years we didn’t reach the final “4”.

Our kids are expected to respect their opponent and they expect the same in return. That might account for the unusual amount of penalty flags on the field that Friday night. There is no place for “obnoxious behavior” anytime or place on or near the field and, evidently, there was.  

I believe some penalties called on Tioga were in response to comments and actions that should have drawn penalties for acts of poor “sportsmanship.” A few of those and an ejection or two would have quieted things down and focused attention on the game instead of the “lack of order” on the field.

To say I was disappointed with the officiating would be an understatement. I don’t believe they ever had command of the game, players, or visitors on the sidelines. I do think the penalties they assessed to Tioga were critical factors in our performance and the success of our opponent, but I believe the calls they should have made, and didn’t, were equally hurtful. 

I think Section 4 and the entire body in charge of training and assigning referees should “raise the bar” to make sure they are as well versed in their “responsibilities” as the coaches and kids are in theirs. Too often that is not the case, no matter the level of competition. We should not expect perfection, but “better” is certainly possible. At least I hope so.

In closing, why not lower ticket prices to these events so whole families and more seniors can afford to attend. This should increase sales at the concession stand as well. Drop the prices there, too. You can make up the difference in volume, and the larger crowds will add a great deal of enthusiasm and excitement to the experience. Wouldn’t that benefit everyone?   

Also, words cannot adequately express our appreciation to the people at Union Endicott High School for the unbelievable job of snow removal not only on the field, but also the stands and the entrance to them. We never would have imagined it. We have never experienced such consideration in Syracuse or Rochester.  


Doug Graves

Tioga Center, N.Y.

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