Foul Balls

The TSSAA has introduced new handicap rules for sports in the model of the golf handicap system, hoping to even out the playing field between schools. The TSSAA has tried many different approaches to create even playing fields between teams, with the class system and districting being the most well known. Though these systems have worked for the most part, it has still led to the same teams winning district championship year after year, usually with only two or three teams within each district being actually competitive.

“We want each team to have a real shot at winning districts, even regionals,” said Andy King, the spokesperson for the TSSAA. “Plus we don’t want everyone to already know the outcome of the game before it even starts. It takes all the razzamatazz out of watching it.”

In order to add some “razzamatazz” back into the districts, the TSSAA has devised its own handicap system for different sports, including penalties and procedures for mismatched teams within districts. Though the exact scoring of each teams handicaps is still being decided on, the TSSAA has already set out some guidelines of just what kind of changes can be expected with different sports.

Baseball, for example, will shorten the bat proportionally to the team’s handicap. If two teams are assigned a handicap of 12 (the maximum) and four respectively, the team with the handicap of four would have the length of their bat to only three inches. Meanwhile, the team assigned the handicap of 12 would go to bat with a high-tensile, carbon-fiber tennis racket. Basketball, meanwhile, will lower or raise the goal proportionally to a team’s handicap. To reuse the example above, the team with the handicap of four would have their rim raised a foot and a half, while the team with the maximum handicap would have theirs lowered to the standard little league height of 9-foot.

Track’s handicap was easily figured out, with the TSSAA assigning weighted vests to runners based on their handicaps. The field part of “track and field” though was much more difficult, with the TSSAA stating they’re still “figuring that one out.”

Wrestling, too, was an easy one to figure out, with the TSSAA allowing each wrestler to now be greased up with a specific amount of lard or butter in accordance with their team’s handicap rating.

Wrestling coaches and officials have all pushed back against the wrestling handicap system, stating that weight classes already do the job of separating students by what they’re physically capable of, but when they voiced their objections last week during an official TSSAA press conference, Andy King simply responded with vigorous jazz hands before shouting, “Razzamatazz!”

Still, some sports have proven much more difficult to create handicap systems for, with officials still stumped over how, exactly, they might create such a system for football and lacrosse, with one proposed answer forcing the better team to start a number of their junior varsity.

With all of these changes, high school sports in East Tennessee will be quite shaken up in the years to come, and with such a shake up, we can only hope and pray that the “razzamatazz” will re-enter our lives.