Baltimore County

It's time for UCBAC changes [editorial]

It's time for the adults who lead the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference to do the grown-up thing and end the David vs. Goliath farces to determine conference champions.

Here's a quick recap of last week's action: Officials stripped the Harford Tech girls lacrosse team of its Susquehanna Division championship and suspended its coach after they decided last week to not play C. Milton Wright, the Chesapeake Division champions, in the UCBAC conference championship game.

The UCBAC, as the conference is most commonly known, consists of all the public high schools in Harford and Cecil counties divided into two divisions to compete for championships in almost all sports; football is a notable exception. Initially, the schools were grouped according to enrollment, as the state does for its playoffs, with the biggest schools placed in the Chesapeake Division and the smaller schools in the Susquehanna Division.

That morphed into divisions based, for the most part, on the strength of the school's program in each sport. The current membership has the seven schools deemed to have the strongest teams in the Chesapeake and the eight weakest teams in the Susquehanna.

Absurdly, the UCBAC has the winner of the Susquehanna, theoretically the eighth best team before the season started, playing the Chesapeake winner, supposedly the best of the 15 teams, for the conference championship. This has been going on since the conference was founded in 2004 and, as we have written in this space in the past, it's way beyond the time for that method of choosing champions to stop.

There's public focus this week on the huge disparity between the two teams in each UCBAC Conference championship game because of the stand taken by the girls on Harford Tech's lacrosse team. The girls decided not to play C. Milton Wright in the championship game, in part, as a way to raise awareness of what some of the girls said they believed was unfair competition.

The two teams played in the UCBAC championship game last year, obviously with different combinations of girls, and C. Milton Wright won, 15-1.

The Harford Tech girls weren't afraid to play C. Milton Wright, but rather chose not to participate in the game as a way to increase awareness of what they believe is the wrong way to decide a conference champion.

The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association, a 27-member conference of private schools in the greater Baltimore region, does it differently. It has three conferences - A, B and C - which are based on each school's ability in each sport. For example, Boys Latin, one of the member schools, could be an A team in boys lacrosse and a C team in boys basketball.

When it comes to championship time, the MIAA crowns three champions - an A Conference champion, a B Conference champion and a C Conference champion. Champions are determined by championship games played against other teams in the conference. Generally, the conference's top team after the regular season plays the fourth-place team and the second-place team plays the third-place team. The winners of those games play for the championship. Never do any of the champions in one conference play a champion from a lower conference.

That's how the UCBAC needs to start - immediately - determining its champions. If there's only time, because of the start of the state playoffs, for teams to play one game for the UCBAC championship, then have the regular season champion from the Chesapeake Division play the second-place team. And have the top two teams from the Susquehanna Division do the same.

It will be better for everyone involved for the UCBAC to change its system. Then UCBAC championships will really mean something.

The only thing they stand for now is pointless games akin to David facing Goliath, except David almost never has a chance in UCBAC championship games.

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