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What is Wrong with this Picture?

This is an open letter to the VPA, Vermont Principals Association

(To regular readers, this is a Vermont localized issue. Feel free to read, but it might not be that interesting to you)

Dear VPA,

The topic is fairness and a situation that needs to change. I am a parent, a former coach, a player and fan. I am also a businessman and a very logical person. In none of these roles can I come to terms with awarding home field advantage, on turf, to a team playing in a state championship game (lower seed, too). Take a look at the picture above, what is wrong?

  • BHS is written on the scoreboard (instead of “Home”)
  • The actual home team  (by VPA rules) has their score on the “Visitor” Side
  • The field is turf (maybe you cannot see that)
  • The scoreboard says “Seahorses”

What else causes concern?

  • The “away” team is playing a “home” game
  • The CVU parents in the stands were informed that they were in the “BHS student section” and asked to move.
  • The posting on the VPA website has the scores reversed (by convention)
  • The ranking system allowed a team with fewer D1 points than the 13 seed to be ranked 1st
  • VPA paid the ‘Visitors’ for the use of their field

There are so many way ways to reconcile this situation, yet no attempt was made to do so, you really need to figure this out. The game could have been switched with the Division 2 venue, this would have been the easiest. To be open and honest, my son is a CVU player. Why playing on turf is so important to VPA (more important than a neutral site)?  A very large percentage of games (90% +) are played on grass during the season. I know the issues with grass (mud, etc.,..). But, there is a way to make things right. If field conditions warrant turf, then make that call. But, realize that the differences between turf play and grass are very very big for Soccer. It would be like moving the finals of Wimbledon to Asphalt – what it takes to get a team to the finals is suddenly very different from the season. Even within turf, the fields are different (South Burlington is different from Burlington). My simple point is that VPA awarded Burlington home field advantage.

One could easily make the case, a strong case, for many other issues, like the rankings, referee (2 ref system, versus 3) but that will be for a different day. With this, there are also many more issues to account for, I understand that – but it is absolutely wrong to award home field advantage, with a different surface to one team in the finals. Burlington is a strong program and will be in contention year after year.  The point, this issue is not simply going to go away and should not be left to chance. I could think of a number of very simple alternatives to make things more fair – there are two issues the home field and the surface.

Alternatives:

  • Higher seed is allowed to choose between two alternative venues
  • Two venues (one grass, one turf) are preselected
  • Use a neutral site (as in a University or College)

VPA, do you have any comments? Is a letter of apology forthcoming (to CVU players, coaches and administrators)? I waited to write this, in the hope that CVU did win, so that it did not come out as a ‘whine’. I made the issue clear, offered alternative solutions in an objective manner. I now hope VPA has the courtesy to respond.

Mitch Lieberman – Father/Taxpayer

(photo credit: Vermont Sports Images, modified)

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Mitch Lieberman November 6, 2012, 9:51 AM

    Here is the response I received from Bob Johnson of VPA:

    “The decision to play championship games on turf fields was made by the VPA Soccer Committee. This committee is made up of soccer coaches, officials and school administrators who have an interest in the sport. The committee has made it very clear over the past several years that they would prefer to play all championships on turf fields, however they realize that there are a limited number of fields in Vermont. This decision was based on past experiences over a number of years where field conditions made playing on grass fields in November dangerous and in some cases, required games to be rescheduled for a later time because the field was unplayable. It was a desire of the soccer committee to give the athletes the best playing field possible for all championship games as you may run into issues with the weather in November in addition to bad field conditions. This year was a great example, as many games were rescheduled at the end of the regular season and during the tournament due to bad field conditions that were a result of Hurricane Sandy.

    In regards to Burlington playing on its home field, I would like to make you aware of several issues. First, the VPA asks its member schools in September if any of them would be interested in hosting a championship event in soccer. Of the 75 VPA member high schools, 5 volunteered to host (one of them, BFA-Fairfax, said they would host, but if they were in a championship, which they were, then they would not be able to host). The VPA is not in a position where we can require a school to host. Second, hosting a championship event is not easy. You have to have a championship caliber field. You need to have the ability to take a gate. You need to have concessions and you need to have a group of volunteers who are willing to staff the event. Burlington was the only D1 school to offer to host (the other sites were at Williamstown, Randolph and South Royalton). With all the logistics involved, decisions about championship sites have to be made early so that the host school can make plans. We announced in early October that D1 was going to Burlington HS. At that time, no one knew if Burlington would be in the finals or not, but plans had to be made. Other fields (such as UVM, South Burlington HS or St. Michaels College) that we have used were not made available to us this year because of scheduling conflicts. We always try first to look for neutral sites, however many of these sites are at colleges and most times they cannot commit to hosting an event until the end of the season because their own teams are still active.

    The VPA is a membership driven organization that relies on the volunteer efforts of coaches, athletic directors and school administrators to staff the various sports and activities committees that we have. We rely heavily on their knowledge and their willingness to oversee the various sports that we have. People may not always agree with the decisions that are made, but they are made in the best interest of the students, the schools and the sports involved.”

  • Mitch Lieberman November 6, 2012, 9:56 AM

    My response to Bob, with further comments:

    I appreciate you willingness to engage and respond. Unfortunately, I do not consider this issue closed. I will be posting the response on the open letter for all to see – the questions I will be asking there and here as well are:

    * Is it VPA policy that the game MUST be played on turf? (yes/no) (your note uses the word “prefer”)
    * Is it VPA policy that the game MUST be played at a High School? (yes/no) (Basketball, for example always seems to be at Patrick Gym)
    * Does VPA pay for the use of the field? (Yes/no) (Others have commented to me that this is about money)

    I have been around for a while and games were hosted at the Tree Farm in Essex and those field were just fine. They did not have much use and were in fine shape. I do understand the issue of logistics – but this not that big, come on. Semi-final games are almost as big and the schools did just fine. All I am saying is have alternative sites – in this instance, you paid BHS to host their own game, that simply is VERY unfair to the players who worked hard to get there.

    In regards to the final part of the reply, I would find it hard to believe anyone would agree that one team playing on their home field is a good decision. I do not see how playing on one teams home field is in the best interests of the students either. There are options, it really should not be that difficult.