If the Indiana High School Athletic Association is going to take a hard line with runners walking out of races like it did with New Prairie and Jacob Corbett at Friday's boys state track finals, they better start by tightening up their rule book.
The reprimands they meted out to Corbett and Cougars coach David Dailey after Corbett stepped off the track in the 1,600-meter run at Indiana University are one thing, but the idea of putting New Prairie on a year's probation for it are ludicrous.
Talk about a punishment not fitting a crime. Dailey knew there might be repercussions of some kind when Corbett did what he did, though I can't imagine he would have taken such a chance if he had known the penalty might be so severe.
What reason would he have to believe it? New Prairie competed in the same Portage Regional where a runner from Covenant Christian walked out of a race and nobody said a word. What we're talking about here, at least under the current guidelines, is a breach of etiquette, not the breaking of a rule. Did Corbett keep somebody else from having the chance to compete at state by dropping out? Simply put, yes, but, save for the magnitude of the meet, what he did was no different than what the Covenant Christian runner did in the regional, without any sort of repercussion.
Moreover, there are meet officials who tell runners at those meets who intend to dip out of a race to simply do what Corbett did -- take a couple steps at the start and take a left turn.
I'm not opining to say what New Prairie did was right. The fact of the matter is the procedure for scratching at post-season meet needs to be changed. Currently, schools have 30 minutes from the official end of a meet to decide on whether to keep an athlete in an event. Another coach in the area told me after the you-know-what hit the fan Friday night that schools should be given a couple, three days to make a decision, sufficient time, unlike half an hour, to clearly think through the process.
Is it a little more inconvenient for the people in charge of the following week's meet to wait? Yes, but if this is really supposed to be about the kids, as the IHSAA is saying in admonishing New Prairie like it did, than the necessary tweak to the scratching procedure shouldn't be a big deal.
Let's get it straight so the lines aren't blurred. A rule at the sectional level should be the same as the rule at the regional level and ditto the state level. Give it all the same teeth or none at all.
I don't know what's going to happen at New Prairie. I'm not going to play judge or jury, nor should anybody else who is crying out about the school being embarrassed by what happened. Dailey is a good, knowledgeable young coach with the best interests of his athletes at heart, so put down your rocks.
It's not like he violated the pitch count rule or something. Oops, wrong sport.