By Robbie Robertson/NEMS Daily Journal
In a scenario that resembles the Abbott and Costello routine of “Who’s on first,” the Northeast Community College football team is definitely in second.
MACJC Athletic Commissioner Jim Southward ruled on Friday that Northeast would be the No. 2 team out of the North Division when the state playoffs begin next Saturday, breaking a three-way tie with Northwest and Itawamba.
After Thursday night’s action – Northwest beat Itawamba 45-7 and Co-Lin beat Northeast 20-12 – all three teams were left with a 4-2 record in North Division play, sending the teams to the rulebook for a tiebreaker scenario.
And that’s where the controversy started.
According to the MACJC rules, the division standings are as follows:
• 1. Division record of the teams (all teams were 4-2);
• 2. Head-to-head competition during the season (all teams were 1-1 versus each other);
• 3. Overall record of the team (Northeast 6-3, Northwest 6-3, Itawamba 4-5); and
• 4. Point spread versus common opponents (Northwest lost to East Mississippi by three, Northeast lost to EMCC by 28 points).
“According to the tiebreaker, and I’m the secretary, there should be no question about it, we are in the playoffs,” Northeast coach Ricky Smither said.
“I talked to the other coaches from all over the state and everybody but East Mississippi and Northwest thinks that we are in.”
Late Friday afternoon, Northwest issued a press release saying they were appealing Southward’s decision on Monday to the MACJC Athletic Association Council. Northwest contends that the decision should go to the fourth part of the tiebreaker, which would put the Rangers in the playoffs.
Smither says the tie-breaker is fairly simple and goes back to head-to-head after Itawamba is eliminated by overall record in part 3 of the rule. Smither said this was clarified last year after East Mississippi knocked Northeast out in a three-way tiebreaker.
“There really shouldn’t have been a question,” Smither said. “Once you eliminate Itawamba because of record, you go back to head-to-head and we are in because we beat Northwest. I called Jim (Southward) to clarify that and he agreed with me and made his ruling.
“I went back and read the minutes where we clarified this last year and Northwest wasn’t even at the meeting.”
Smither said he didn’t discuss playoffs with his team after the loss to Co-Lin.
“We waited until (Friday) to make sure and met with the kids at 1 to tell them the news,” Smither said. “We told them we were in the playoffs and would be playing the winner of Gulf Coast and Hinds on Saturday. The kids were very excited and ready to go to work.”