Muskies spiked from OFSAA tourney

Calling it a “communication breakdown” between OFSAA and the Fort High athletic department, the Muskie senior boys’ volleyball team did not compete in last week’s all-Ontario showdown in Barrie even though they qualified for it by winning the NorWOSSA crown.
The Muskies earned that right with a 3-0 sweep over the Kenora Broncos here Nov. 20 in the best-of-five NorWOSSA final (there was no NWOSSAA championship this season because the Thunder Bay schools did not run a season).
But Fort High did not receive correct information and the team was left out in the cold, school officials said.
That left several team members disappointed and angry they were not allowed to compete at the all-Ontarios–their goal from the very start of the season.
“It was kind of disappointing not to go because it was my last year,” said third-year Muskie Jason Jones, 18. “As a team, we played so hard and it was our goal to go to OFSAA.
“If we would have went, our team would have gained experience and would have gotten better for next year,” he noted. “[And] you never know what could have happened [at OFSAA] the way we played at the end.”
Fort High vice-principal Ian Simpson said the school received a fax sent either Nov. 19 or 20 warning them there may be a problem with holding an OFSAA tournament this season stemming from the difficulty some schools were having in getting teachers to accompany their respective teams.
Based on that information, Simpson said the school opted not to send the boys’ team to OFSAA when contacted by tournament convener Dale Baker on the Sunday afternoon (Nov. 22).
When it was learned Monday morning (Nov. 23) that the all-Ontarios would run as scheduled after all, Fort High contacted Baker but was told their decision to re-enter the 12-team tournament was too late.
She said all submissions had to be in by noon Sunday, and so they were replaced by Ingersoll High School.
Ironically, Fort High teacher Brenda Pressenger was one of two NWOSSAA officials (the other being Al Luomala of Geraldton) who had attended the annual OFSAA fall meeting in Toronto on Nov. 20. But Simpson said Pressenger came away from the meeting not “understanding” OFSAA’s position regarding the all-Ontarios.
But Fort High athletic director Rick Wiedenhoeft said that misunderstanding from the OFSAA meeting was the direct result of a telephone message from Pressenger that was not received as it was intended.
“We got a message that said ‘Girls’ volleyball was OK but there is no girls’ volleyball,” said Wiedenhoeft, adding they were left “confused” by the message.
But OFSAA executive director Colin Hood said it was clearly explained at that meeting that there would be no problem at the “AA” level for senior boys’ volleyball, adding he was “insulted” at Fort High’s insistence they were not properly informed of the tournament’s situation.
Hood said the memo was the same one that went to all the other schools, and that Fort High was the only one that decided not to make the trip.
Although he described the situation as “unfortunate,” he said organizers did all they could to try to restructure the tournament to accommodate the Muskies but added it simply could not have been done.
“You have to look at all the other teams and there’s no way it could have happened–it would have ruined the championship,” Hood said Monday morning.
“Believe me, if we could have made it work, we would because it’s the last thing I wanted to do,” he stressed.
But Simpson argued the tournament could have been run effectively as a 13-team event without causing a major catastrophe to the scheduling.
“That was the reasoning the [tournament] convener gave us but we figured it out and it would have resulted in just three more games,” noted Simpson, who helped organize the much larger all-Ontario hockey championships in Dryden a few years back.
“Our people acted in good faith and we feel we did the right thing based on the information we received,” added Simpson.
“We can take part of the blame for not being as astute with information received but it was a communication breakdown with the OFSAA office.
“I don’t know why they didn’t send us a second fax informing us of the changes,” he charged.
“If this was under normal circumstances and we informed them we weren’t going at first, and then changed our minds, it would have been tough luck,” said Wiedenhoeft.
“But this wasn’t under normal circumstances so I think, yes, a little more leeway would have been nice,” he added.
Simpson said it is not his, nor Fort High’s philosophy, to prevent any student athlete from the chance to compete for a provincial championship. Wiedenhoeft said both Simpson and FFHS principal Terry Ellwood strongly opposed the decision for the boys’ team not to attend OFSAA when informed of that decision Monday.
“I’ll tell you there isn’t one person here that would deny any kid to go to OFSAA if they have earned the right to go, regardless if they had not been playing well before they won the championship–this had nothing to do with the kids,” Simpson said when asked if the decision was somewhat based on the senior boys’ mediocre record this season.
But in fact, head coach Toby Munro admitted he didn’t feel his team had “earned” the right to go to OFSAA this season–and was not all that disappointed with the decision to not allow the Muskies to enter the tournament based on their 3-7 record against ‘A’ schools.
Nonetheless, Ellwood stressed he was upset OFSAA wouldn’t allow the Muskies back into the tournament, saying the whole concept of high school sports is for the players.
“I’m absolutely disappointed because it’s a kids’ business and not an area for politics,” he charged. “We [the school] can put up our hand as being part of the problem but it went beyond our responsibility. And when you are dealing with kids, you have to be flexible.
“We were the first public school board to settle [with its teachers] so we could have a complete year of sports, and the players always have a goal at the start of the season to be the champions of Ontario,” he noted.