I don’t want this to sound bad.
I have a feeling it’s going to, but I’m going to get it off my chest anyway.
I saw photos of the Providence Day football team following their NCISAA Division II state title on Friday, many of which were holding up the typical “No. 1” finger after their championship.
I’ll start with this: I don’t want to take anything away from any Providence Day player, coach Adam Hastings, his staff or the Chargers winning their first state title since 2011.
It’s not their fault; it’s the system’s.
To me, this Division II championship business is really missing the point. It’s living in the “everyone gets a trophy” mindset.
And I have evidence to back it up.
The NCISAA split football into three divisions before the 2017 season. I thought at the time it was a nice idea to give teams like Metrolina Christian, High Point Christian, Rabun Gap, Wake Christian, Ravenscroft and newly formed Covenant Day – all schools with smaller average daily attendance – a chance to battle it out for the Division II title while the heavyweights including Charlotte Christian, Providence Day, Country Day and Latin battle with Christ School to be among the four teams selected in the Division I field.
If one of the Big Four is eliminated and not allowed into the playoffs, so be it. Play better.
The Chargers went 1-3 against the Big Four this season, hardly the makings of a state title team.
But they’re not alone.
When Charlotte Latin won the first title Division II title in 2017, it was long-time coach Larry McNulty’s last season and he rallied his troops to win their final four games including a 33-0 blanking of Country Day in the title game.
But the Hawks had gone 1-3 against the Big Four that season, including a 34-0 loss to now three-time defending champion Charlotte Christian.
But they were entered into the Division II brackets anyway, and once again the bigger school won.
Last season, Country Day went 8-5 overall, including two wins over Covenant Day and victories over the Carolina Bobcats and Hickory Hawks – hardly the most impressive foes.
The Bucs went 0-3 against the Big Four last year, losing big to Charlotte Christian (42-0), Providence Day (42-6) and Latin (31-16).
They got a good draw in the Division II playoffs after going winless against the Big Four, beating Covenant Day first. They scored their best win of the season to that point over Latin and then knocked off Metrolina Christian 17-14 on a last-ditch hail mary to win it all.
It was a nice story for coach Drew Whitman, a former Bucs player and son of legendary Country Day coach Bob Whitman. It was their first title in nearly a decade, and it led to a great year this season, but to me it didn’t seem that authentic with them closing the regular season 5-5 with that soft of a schedule.
Again, it’s not their fault. It’s the system’s.
This season, that feeling came over me again.
I saw Providence Day play three times, each one with very mixed results.
The Chargers went 1-2 against the Big Four, contributing to two of their three losses.
Providence Day went 8-3 after beating Metrolina Christian in the title, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth because it’s again the bigger school bullying a team that can’t match up with them since the Chargers already beat Metrolina Christian 41-10 this season.
The outcome of the title game was hardly a surprise.
This new system diminishes the regular season so much, and allows the worst team of the Big Four to win a title.
I would propose someone change this system, and changes it in a hurry.
The NCHSAA, the entity that oversees public schools, has strict classifications based on average daily attendance of the schools.
This would never happen there.
Providence Day, Country Day and Charlotte Latin are the three largest private schools in the state. They have proven to be capable of winning titles, all getting the wins over the past three seasons, but what does it really mean?
Congratulations on having the worst record among Charlotte powerhouses, now you can go impose your will on the smaller schools including when the Chargers bullied Ravenscroft 61-6 in the semifinals.
I’ve watched each of the past three Charlotte Christian state title games, and I’m happy for coach Jason Estep and what he’s done over there. That can’t be truer as this season when the Knights fought and crawled their way through an atypical season to win it again.
I wonder what Estep thinks. I’ll ask him one day, but he’s too professional to answer me honestly.
But seriously, his teams have beaten the past three Division II champions each year and did so convincingly.
And then the next week he watches them raise a title? It might not feel fishy to him, but it does to me.
It seems so disingenuous.
But until the NCISAA changes it, we will continue to have the worst of the Big Four hoisting state titles that seem almost made up to make sure everyone gets a ribbon.
And that isn’t the way I want my state champions remembered.