I am a parent of two Hurricane High School volleyball players. My girls’ team, two other teams from Putnam County and three from Wood County were not allowed to compete in this week’s state tournament in Charleston because those counties switched from gold last week to orange this week on weekly COVID map. The three Putnam teams filed an emergency petition for a temporary restraining order and injunctive relief in Kanawha Circuit Court asking the state Secondary School Activities Commission to delay the tournament. It was denied.
Football teams that qualified for the state playoffs from orange or red counties have been given the option of waiting until the next map is released tonight. Volleyball wasn’t given this type of concession.
Last week, the SSAC allowed Class AAA volleyball teams from the Eastern Panhandle to wait until Sunday to play their regional championship games. This same concession was not granted to teams from Wayne County. Thus, at least two teams with legitimate chances to compete for the state championship (Spring Valley and Wayne) were left out in the cold.
I drove to Parkersburg on Sunday to talk face-to-face with SSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan before the weekly football playoff meeting. He explained to me that the SSAC wanted to find a way to allow these six volleyball teams to play. He told me the SSAC had presented three options to Gov. Jim Justice’s office to make that happen. He told me the governor’s office had declined each of those options.
On Wednesday, the three Putnam County teams, their coaches and their parents rallied at the Capitol before Justice’s COVID press briefing. We pleaded with him to let the girls play. He gave the expected folksy answer about how he loved them all and has done everything he could in his power to get them to play and how it breaks his heart and that no one wants to see them play more than him.
But, he told the girls he couldn’t get the SSAC and other state agencies to do anything to change things for them. He said it was out of his hands. He told the girls he couldn’t give them an answer they wanted to hear.
We all know that’s simply not true.
Then, moments later during his COVID press briefing, the governor was asked about the volleyball situation. His reply was that “Jim Justice has to protect us from dying. From dying.” How does keeping six of 24 volleyball teams from competing for a state championship protect anyone?
As a side note, the players on these six teams can go to the Charleston Coliseum, pay for a ticket and sit in the stands and watch the other teams play. How insane is that?
Before anyone mentions that we’re wanting to put athletics over education, that isn’t the point of this at all. That’s a valid discussion, but it’s one for another day.
I hope the governor sleeps well at night with his decision because I am sure most of those girls have had a few teary-eyed restless nights this week.
And all he had to do was let them play.