ASA’S GOLD-EN MATH
A Spy editorial
Many veteran observers believed in 1995 that ASA, in creating the Gold Division, should set the limit at 64 teams. Thankfully, ASA put the old points formula in the dust-bin; too many teams were qualifying with a passel of second and third place finishes. The concept was to compel more competition and create a best-of-the-best tournament.
Over the years, ASA tinkered with Gold formulas until today’s regional-territorial awards package was created. Even then, ASA ignored a majority opinion, expressed at Marietta, that any region which did not have at least five teams competing for a berth should forfeit that berth to the territorial package. But many ASA commissioners, including some where Gold is not competed, clung stubbornly to their berth, often awarding it without competition. The result was that each year the 64-team field included a horde of teams tied for 33rd – teams which did not win a game. This guarantee of berths for every association only guarantees a near majority of teams will be untested, some even mediocre when the best-of-the-best standard is applied..
One aspect of the Code which held fast for many years was that the top four teams would receive automatic berths to the next year’s Gold tournament. Eventually, that provision also came under fire from various commissioners who contended that it favored certain California teams, one or more of which always finished in the final four. Every team should compete for a berth, ASA said.
That perspective, it turns out, depends on who is calling the shots.
Another seemingly sacrosanct provision of the Code, which supposedly can only be changed by a majority vote of the ASA national council, was that Gold should remain limited to 64 teams. The only time that code was violated was by ASA when it awarded a 65th berth at the behest of a favored commissioner.
Now, both provisions have been scrapped!
The amended Code allows 76 teams to qualify, and 75 teams have qualified for the 2012 Gold.
The ASA math is simple. The Code now awards 12 berths to 2011 top finishers, added to the 64 who continue to be awarded berths under the existing formula.
Returning berths are a reward for success in competition. Why is the concept more appealing to ASA now than previously? Depends on who is calling the shots.
There are several commissioners who are avowedly determined to take teams away from Premier, USSSA, Triple Crown and other organizations, especially Premier. The latest rules announced for Junior Olympic selection derive from that same objective. The changes are punitive, and are rooted in bias.
At minimum, ASA has elevated to Gold some teams which would be more competitive at 18A, a division they may have crippled in terms of its draw to college coaches. The net effect is that Gold has become just another tournament, its level of play no higher than that of many other travel ball tournaments.
Spy is not sure whom ASA consults outside a circle of its commissioners. Certainly not Spy on these latest issues. Spy has consistently urged a 48-team Gold field, rigorously competed, and urged the Women’s national team selection committee to draw national teams from the widest possible field. (The ASA decision to draw Junior World from among Gold players ignores the fact that a majority of the players last chosen did not play Gold).
How can Gold be called the best of the best when so many top teams no longer play Gold?
To be sure, some very capable teams will play Gold, including some traditional competitors. Some of these same teams will also play Premier the following week. Notably, none of the recent winners of Gold nationals are competing Gold this year; with one exception, they are playing Premier.
Sadly, ASA has not offered them an incentive to return.
Bottom line: In Spy’s view, ASA has taken two steps backward.