By ZACH BOLINGER
Daily Record Sports Writer
Let’s hope Dr. Dan Ross was taking notes.
If he wasn’t, somebody please send this clipping to the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
The OHSAA commissioner and his staff should follow the blueprint taken by the founding fathers of the Classic in the Country. Why couldn’t the high school state championships — boys and girls, you name the sport — be as inviting and carte blanche?
From the moment you walk in the doors at The Perry Reese Community Center, as a player, coach, fan, journalist, etc., you see smiles of 250-plus volunteers. You hear the “How can I help yous?” You smell the home-cooked, five-star meals — for purchase in the lobby or free to those of us lucky enough to be in the media/college scout area.
Up there, amidst the balcony bunch, you’ll get computer printouts of all the box scores. Internet and phone-line hookup is right at your fingertips.
Want to take a break from basketball? Go ahead. Try out the $4,000 massage chair, a top-of-the-line recliner or one of the leather couches. Pull up another cookie and diet coke and check out Marty Schottenheimer’s latest playoff collapse on the pull-down projector-style television screen.
Ladies and gentlemen, once again, this is not usual treatment for guys like us.
At state tournaments, especially on the basketball side, you get OHSAA officials pulling stunts of rank with a cold demeanor. There are team and media hosts, but one coach at this year’s Classic compared them to prison wardens.
And most importantly, the food: Soggy-bun subs and your choice — pretzels or chips.
I do understand that the CitC is an “invitation-only” event, and you obviously “earn” the right to play in a State Final Four. What does that have to do with the general rule: Treat those like you want to be treated. The idea is embraced by the Classic in the Country, its directors and volunteers of the Holmes County area, and I say “hey OHSAA, step up to the plate and extend an extra hand hospitality wise.”
The CitC also provides an intimate atmosphere for girls games, something the state tournament hasn’t created in years. The Reese Center, which is said to hold approximately 1,800, is a completely different venue than 20,000-seat Value City Arena or Schottenstein Center. Whatever that thing in Columbus is officially called, the pounding of the basketball echoes like the Grand Canyon for the girls state tournament.
What do I deem the perfect setting for a high school game? When you pull out extra folding chairs for seating and even more people are sitting Indian-style along the baseline. That was the case Saturday when Div. II’s top team, Warsaw River View, met the No. 2-ranked team in Div. IV, Columbus Africentric.
Even I, who had absolutely no rooting interest, was energized for that one.
Bottom line, the Classic in the Country girls hoops festival is a five-star showcase unrivaled in Ohio and beyond. And it’s the people, starting with Ohio Girls Basketball Report founder/director Tom Jenkins, the Hiland High coaches and administrations, and volunteers who make it that way.
They want it to be the best basketball weekend of your life. It’s more than a goal, it’s mandatory.
Dr. Ross had to have seen that Sunday, right?