As Yogi Berra once said, "It's deja vu all over again." Early this week, the Aberdeen boys basketball team, which was a real contender to snag the UCBAC Chesapeake (upper) Division title, announced that it had forfeited the first 15 games of its season when it became apparent that an ineligible player had been used in each of those contests. Rewind almost exactly one year - to Feb. 15, 2012 - and the Elkton Golden Elks, who at 19-2 were having one of the best boys basketball seasons in team history, and were a lock to win the Chesapeake Division, had all 19 of their victories erased when it became apparent they had been using an ineligible player for the entire season up to that point.
That's an eerie coincidence, yeah? Two front-running squads in position to win a division title, and along with it a conference crown (unless there was an upset in the UCBAC championship game, which has happened), find out in the final week of the regular season that there's been athlete on the roster who was not supposed to be there, be it because of failing grades or that the athlete lived outside the school district, and their entire season comes crashing down. So long, division title. Goodbye, UCBAC championship trophy. Adios, top-four seeding in the MPSSAA regional tournament.
Is it a coincidence that both Aberdeen and Elkton caught their respective infractions so late in the season? I'm no conspiracy theorist, but I am a hard core cynic, and that part of me asks, "Why didn't someone catch it five games in, or eight games, or 10 games?" The cynical answer to that is: Someone knew what was going on, but didn't report it until someone else pointed it out, in the hopes of finishing the season without it being detected. Maybe that's not the case, and both teams really weren't aware they were using an ineligible player until it completely wrecked their seasons, and I wouldn't be doing any good to stir the pot with conjecture.
The evidence, however, does point to Aberdeen and Elkton being blindsided by the revelations they were not in compliance. Both teams self-reported their infraction when it came to light, and neither side put up any fuss nor tried to use any subterfuge, which is usually the case when teams are caught red-handed in some kind of cheating scandal. Elkton did appeal its relegation to the Susquehanna (lower) Division and was able to stay in the Chesapeake, a decision I supported, because it kept the Susquehanna Division from being punished for something it had no hand in, and I hope the same decision goes through for Aberdeen, should it decide to follow suit.
But, aware or not aware they were breaking the rules, those two teams have caused major shakeups in the same division at the same time of the year, two seasons running. Both episodes had major repercussions in the UCBAC division standings and that's not acceptable. The credibility of the UCBAC suffers every time something like this happens. The division races, which were coming down to the wire and were probably going to be pretty exciting, suffer. The other teams suffer, and so do the fans.
I'm still left mainly with questions. Who's accountable? Do there need to be stricter penalties for these violations? I'm not sure I have the answer to either. What I do know is that, rather than sweeping this under the rug and "putting it behind us," everyone involved with UCBAC basketball should take a good long look at it, because, as the old cliche goes, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. I don't want to see a repeat of this episode because two is already too many.