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Friday, March 3, 2017: Another day, another Section 1 Class D forfeit

   Leading off today: There's no truth to the rumor that Britney ("Oops, I did it again") Spears will make the trophy presentation after the Section 1 boys Class D basketball championship game today or that "Groundhog Day" will be shown in the video board before the contest.

   Then, again, there's no truth to the rumor there will be a championship game either.

   In a development considered bizarre even by Section 1 standards, yet another team has forfeited its place in the tournament final. The second such flub in two days, this time by Clark Academy, leaves Martin Luther King as the last team standing and thus the Section 1 champion by default.

   "No one who plays basketball, no one who coaches the game, wants to win that way," MLK coach and AD Victor Laurenceau told The Journal News. "I know our kids were upset because they were looking forward to playing one of the two teams. It didn't matter to us which one, they just wanted the opportunity to play. No one wanted to win a championship like that."

   True. Then again, no one else wanted to verify the eligibility of their athletes between Thanksgiving and this past week.

   On Wednesday, Biondi High in Yonkers had to forfeit its win over Clark in the semifinals after it was determined an ineligible player had been used. That development momentarily restored Clark to the tournament, setting up a championship game vs. MLK.

   That went out the window Thursday when Clark was forced to withdraw from the tournament after self-reporting a violation -- the use of a player who should have been ineligible throughout the entire season -- to the section, making for the second time in five years that the Class D championship has been determined off the court. Biondi was stripped of its 2012 title after it was determined that the MVP of the tournament was ineligible to participate.

   "It's concerning because the reality is every school is responsibility for the eligibility of their student-athletes," Section 1 Executive Director Jennifer Simmons said. "They are responsible for everybody to be eligible and in good standing. With all the responsibilities they have with kids moving in and kids moving out, it's not always easy."

   With the forfeit, MLK improves to 11-11 and advances to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association tournament's first round next week. The Tigers' only 2017 postseason game to date has been a 66-40 victory over Children's Village (1-20) in the sectional semifinals.

   More on Clark: There's not much left to say beyond what I suggested in yesterday's blog after Biondi's forfeit came to light. With two screw-ups of the same nature in five years, it's time to send a nastygram to the folks at that institution.

   Otherwise, I'll simply note that there have been at least three forfeit situations in Section 1 boys basketball this season (Beacon had to give back its first seven regular-season wins), which is at least two too many. Spare me the sob stories about how school districts are spread thin and vetting athletes' status is too labor-intensive.

   If you want to play, then you have to pay.

   Perhaps the membership of the section -- and the NYSPHSAA for that matter -- would be better served if Section 1 spent less time battling to rearrange the intersectional football tournament rotation (which has bored more meeting attendees to tears than any recent subject I can remember) and more time working with its athletic directors to educate them on the rules and then periodically refreshing some memories.

   Final thought: I think I may have written this in a long-ago blog, but I'll risk repeating myself anyway.

   Rule-breaking in football has long been a tradition in the Southeastern Conference, where the unofficial motto is

purported to be, "If you ain't cheatin', then you ain't tryin.'"

   There was one particularly long string of incidents and subsequent NCAA investigations in the late 1970s and/or early '80s that led to sanctions against multiple SEC programs. A bunch of schools landed on probation and several were made to award forfeits to teams they had soundly beaten.

   After one more of those dominoes fell and more forfeits in games played long ago were declared, someone offered up this gem:

   "One more forfeit and Vanderbilt gets a retroactive invitation to the Sugar Bowl."

   I'm by no means suggesting there's been any wrongdoing or sloppy bookkeeping at MLK that will further embarrass Section 1. I'm just saying there's still time between today and the start of the state tournament next week.

   Children's Village might not want to pack up its basketball uniforms just yet.

   More later: Even Section 1 had newsworthy developments that took place on the court Thursday. I'll be back a little later on Friday to recap some of the highlights as we head into one of the busiest and best weekends of postseason action on the annual schedule.

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