Orville Higgins | Who should get a chance?
This article will not find favour with my Kingston College friends, who may start labelling me a hater of the great institution. I find that too many KC people are overly sensitive and feel that once you are critical then you are against them. For the record, last year I was wholly on the side of the 'big three', (which included KC) and defended them stoutly on radio, when they were asking for extra tickets for Boys and Girls Championships. So, what I will say next is about defending a principle, and has nothing to do with me 'fighting against' a school.
I am talking, of course, about ISSA's decision to allow Ugandan runner Ari Rodgers to compete in the upcoming Champs for KC. I just feel that ISSA is trodding down a dangerous road in allowing extenuating circumstances or humanitarian reasons to cause them to allow the youngster to compete despite clearly falling short of the ISSA guidelines. ISSA stipulates that if you want to compete in the January term, then you must have been registered in school before September 30 of the previous year and must have attended school for no less than 80 per cent of the classes. Rodgers did not start KC until the middle of October, and therefore didn't satisfy the requirements of either registration or attendance.
REGISTERED SINCE AUGUST
The KC people have stated that the youngster was registered from August but for me that ought not count. To be registered must mean that you not only 'write down your name' but that you have started life as a student at the institution, which means that you were present in school. The issue of 'registration in school' has probably never been challenged before, and it therefore remains a grey area. The question I would ask is, does registration itself mean that you are a student of a school? The answer is clearly no. If I register at a school in August but never showed up, then there is no way I could claim to have been a student of the institution. So, for all practical purposes, young Rodgers, who was never at KC before, shouldn't be considered registered until the day he shows up and starts attending classes.
The KC fraternity presented a credible case that the youngster struggled with travel-related issues, which resulted in his late arrival. I have no doubt that all this is true. My problem is that ISSA doesn't always allow themselves to be swayed by these genuine extenuating circumstances and the question now has to be raised, when are extenuating and humanitarian reasons strong enough and when are they not?
ISSA will run into problems when they appear to give a 'bly' on some occasions but play hardball on other occasions. Here are some examples.
A few years ago, several schools, including St George's College, were not allowed to compete at Champs because they didn't register early enough. It created a great brouhaha. ISSA wouldn't budge. They were going strictly by the rules. They were not concerned with whatever extenuating circumstances these schools presented. A year or two ago there was this huge media case involving Manchester High. A youngster, who was struggling with schoolwork, had left B.B. Coke at the end of December and had started Manchester in January. The Manchester community worked on his academics to the point where he did well enough to be in their sixth form in September of the same year. He couldn't represent Manchester that year because ISSA insisted that he didn't serve a year in the school as per the rules. The circumstances were unique and to this day, the Manchester principal, Mr Gabriel, feels hard done by; but ISSA insisted on playing by the rules.
Another example. A few weeks ago, some high-school cricketers were barred from playing in the Grace Shield because the boys couldn't afford the white cricket shoes. It was harsh, but again ISSA was not flexible with the rules. The extenuating circumstance of just being too poor to afford proper cricket shoes didn't count. There are several other examples I could mention. In the face of all this evidence, it's fair to ask, why then was ISSA prepared to be so lenient this time?
ISSA has developed a reputation over the years of acting decisively whenever these issues come up. This one has been dragging out for weeks and it feels like ISSA was almost reluctant to rule. ISSA should take my advice. Either they stick to the rules every time or they don't. It's the fairest way. Forget extenuating circumstances. The minute you start giving bly to some and not to other, there will be accusations of bias and people feeling certain schools are getting preferential treatment.
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.