For the first time in the 30-plus-year history of the Norwich Pennysaver Girls Basketball Tournament, a champion was not crowned. Held last weekend, the longtime event – one that we at The Evening Sun cover extensively – was reduced to three teams when Vestal bowed out of the tournament. Norwich coach Josh Bennett said Vestal officials gave notice in late November. With winter schedules set months in advance, it was impossible to scramble for a fourth team to fill the unexpected vacancy.
As we said, no tournament champion, no all-tournament team, and for first-time tournament entries Utica Proctor and New Hartford, just one game instead of the two that were scheduled. It’s not the first impression you want to make when welcoming newcomers to your tournament, and both schools would be justified in not returning.
The reason for Vestal pulling its girls out of the tournament was a conflict with another school event. Not another sporting event, state testing or even an emergency school assembly. A high school with an enrollment pushing 1,200 kids pulled its 20 to 30 junior varsity and varsity girls out of a two-day event for a school dance.
Yes, you read that right.
“Both Joe (Downey, Norwich athletic coordinator) and I made countless calls and emails (to Vestal) to confirm everything,” Bennett said last weekend.
Bennett was furious with how the tournament played out, but after long discussions with the Utica Proctor and New Hartford coaches, hopes those schools will return to next year’s tournament.
It’s safe to conclude Vestal will not be invited back. One of the core principles of athletics is making a commitment – mind and body – to your team. When you’re school does not honor all of its commitments, what message does that send to the kids?
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