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Penalty Shots: Grading on the swerve

By Pete Spitler
updated: 11/22/2017 1:49 PM

It's award season for fall sports, as the slow trickle of all-conference, all-South and all-state announcements comes across my email.

The Black Diamond Conference recently released its all-conference picks for football, which were decided based upon a vote of the conference's coaches.

But the system is flawed. It has become less of an appropriate reward for outstanding success and more of a livestock auction.

The format is simple - coaches meet at a neutral location and spend all day nominating certain players, who are then "put up" for debate on why they should be included on the lists.

Majority vote rules. Multiple sources have told me the process is predominantly slanted toward seniors, with longstanding friendships (I call them "coach pacts") between coaches playing a factor.

Using Chester as an example, the Yellow Jackets had seven players make the BDC's all-conference team on the conference's various lists - first team, second team and honorable mention.

Six of the seven are seniors and while all are deserving, there are questions. The lone junior, quarterback Nick Meyer, accounted for 2,093 total yards (1,628 passing and 465 rushing) and 27 total touchdowns last season.

And yet, he wasn't able to earn more than a second team selection.

Another player, junior linebacker Eathan Thompson, didn't get anything, despite leading the Yellow Jackets in tackles for loss with 13.5 (including a sack) and finishing second on the team with 77 tackles overall.

In talking with Chester coach Billy Belton, Thompson was put up for a potential all-conference selection, but Belton was overruled by the conference's other coaches.

I'm sure that Thompson wasn't the only so-called "snub" due to the apparent senior factor, and as long as coaches form all-conference alliances - an all-too-familiar problem in many conferences, not just the BDC - the legitimacy of certain selections will be called into question.

The question, of course, is how to fix it.

While I was covering SIU women's basketball for The Southern Illinoisan, all-conference selections were determined by a point system. You filled out a form and chose your top players, with the person chosen first receiving the most points (10, 9, 8, etc).

The forms were then faxed to the Missouri Valley Conference office, which compiled the all-conference list. Nominations for the conference's MVP, Coach of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, Freshman of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Sixth Player of the Year were handled in the same way.

No plan is foolproof until after it's been applied, so it's debatable that going to a point system would fully fix the issue of coach pacts during award season. Allowing media to have a say in selection could also be positive step toward bringing more parity in postseason honors.

However it could possibly shake out, it's at least certainly something different and in this case, different is good.

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