Change can be intimidating. In the sports world, we like tradition and anything that threatens to disturb that is shunned from the outset.
This weekend, tradition will be tested in the case of the Shaw Christmas Classic, formerly called the Shaw Christmas Tournament. It is no longer called the latter because the "tournament" aspect of the event has been suspended for at least this year.
The event will be comprised of 12 boys teams and 10 girls. Each team will play three games over the course of the Classic's three days -- Saturday, Monday and Tuesday -- but there will be no bracket, no elimination and no champion.
People are understandably skeptical. As someone who likes resolution, I was moderately disappointed upon hearing of the change myself.
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After speaking to Muscogee County system-wide athletic director Todd Stanfill, however, I've realized that one thing is clear: There are a lot more factors that go into a decision like this than just basketball. And facilitating certain changes in scheduling can force the hand of organizers to ultimately make changes to the format.
That was the case, according to Stanfill.
Last year, the final day of the event was held on New Year's Eve, something many people wanted to avoid this year if at all possible. They also didn't want to start the tournament on Dec. 26, the day after Christmas, when families are still traveling for the holidays. That left a three-day event to be held on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday. Teams can't play on Sunday due to Georgia High School Association rules.
With only three days for the tournament, it would have to be comprised of either eight or 16 teams, so that it could be completed in a fair manner, where all teams would play the same number of games each day.
"The goal was to get 16 of each, but we only wound up with 12 (boys) and 10 (girls)," Stanfill said. "So there was no way to do a tournament in three days with 12 boys and 10 girls."
The trouble in finding enough teams comes from a number of factors as well, he added. Teams want to be guaranteed a certain number of games when they commit to a tournament or classic.
Class A schools are playing for power rankings, so they want to avoid playing
schools from out of state, which do not factor into the rankings that determine postseason seeding.
Stanfill said there were teams that had originally committed to the event, but then backed out for one reason or another.
The mounting pressure to meet each one of these needs from different coaches and parents, while also keeping an eye on the bottom line -- an entertaining event that is successful monetarily -- understandably forced Stanfill and organizers into the potentially unpopular decision of altering a format that has been a holiday tradition for years.
"I know a lot of people aren't happy with the format because they want to play for a championship," Stanfill said. "At this moment, this is the best we can come up with. Once we realized we had to go this way, I met with some of the boys and girls head coaches. We went over this, and I explained the situation to them. They understood. They were OK. I'm not so naive to think that deep down they may not have liked it because they're used to the history of the tournament. But most people have been good about it. We evaluate it every year."
The bottom line is that, yes, this event will be different. And, yes, it will lack some of the things that we've come to like about it so much over the years. But when trying to acquiesce to so many requests, that's what happens.
We've still got three days of wall-to-wall basketball to look forward to, including a number of good matchups for both boys and girls. Changing the format won't change that aspect of the event.
David Mitchell, firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports