At 5:08 p.m. last Monday, less than an hour before the first game of the Gully Transportation/Suns Classic Tip-Off Tournament was scheduled to begin, Quincy Notre Dame athletic director Bill Connell learned his boys basketball program's showcase event was in jeopardy.
Hours earlier, Pittsfield athletic director Don Bigley and Saukees coach Brad Tomhave found themselves in a similar situation regarding their Thanksgiving tournament.
They all had to scramble.
An overlooked bylaw in the Missouri State High School Activities Association handbook limits the number of games Missouri teams can play in a Christmas or Thanksgiving tournament. It didn't come to light until Monday afternoon that teams in both tournaments would be in violation of the rule.
Calls were made. Schedules were changed. Waivers were granted. The crisis was averted.
Now, it falls upon the shoulders of the organizers to make sure this doesn't happen again.
That starts by eliminating Missouri schools from the pool of potential participants. At Pittsfield, only one of six teams needs replaced. At QND, it's a bigger issue. Half of the four-team field was from Missouri, and with so many Illinois teams already tied into tournaments, finding two replacements won't be easy.
Here's where tournament organizers need to band together.
The merging of the Gully Transportation Tip-Off Tournament and the Suns Classic six years ago was met with cynicism, but it has turned out to be quite a success. Saturday night's matchup between QND and West Hancock for the championship is proof it works.
So bring the Pittsfield Turkey Tournament into the fold, too.
Start off with each of the three tournaments playing a four-team round robin Monday-Wednesday of Thanksgiving week. It means one of the teams from Pittsfield will have to shift to QND -- Liberty or Payson Seymour would be ideal because of the proximity to Quincy -- and one team would have to be added.
After pool play is complete, seed the 12 teams based on record, creating three mini-tournaments to be played Friday and Saturday at Quincy University or John Wood Community College or both. Ties in the seeding would be broken by average margin of victory in pool play.
You would pair the top four seeds with No. 1 playing No. 4 and No. 2 facing No. 3 on Friday. The winners and losers of those games play each other on Saturday. Similar brackets would be set up for seeds 5-8 and 9-12.
Games could begin at 10 a.m. each day and be scheduled to start two hours apart, meaning the final game tips off at 8 p.m. It should allow the schedule to stay on time even if there are overtime games. The three host schools -- QND, Pittsfield and Southeastern -- would work together to handle ticket taking and concessions, allowing them to continue to make money for their programs.
It seems like a win-win situation for everyone.
Every team would play five games. There would be a high level of competition throughout the week. The host schools, which hold these tournaments as moneymakers, still come out ahead. QU and John Wood get to showcase their facilities and their campuses to prospective students.
Could it get any better?
Maybe. Having a title sponsor would help defray costs and allow organizers to create a catchy advertising campaign. You need a marketable name for the event as well, something snappy.
Call it the Subway Thanksgiving Hoops Feast.
I think that has a nice ring to it, don't you?