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Nick Carroll

The Romney Pioneer football championship from 1949 should influence playoff eligibility in 2020.  

How so?

Let’s take a look at one of the most brilliant stunts in West Virginia high school football history.

In 1949, Romney Head Coach Dick McElwee had an outstanding squad that was poised to compete for a state championship; however, the playoff system only consisted of 2 teams. 

In 1949, the UPI playoff ranking method was used to determine the 2 best teams to square off in the state championship game for each class (Class A and Class B). 

After rattling off 7 wins in convincing fashion, Coach McElwee realized his Pioneers might come up short in terms of playoff points and decided a midseason change was mandatory. 

At the time, wins against out-of-state teams did nothing to help build a playoff resume, so Coach McElwee pulled off a stunning move and canceled the game with longtime rival Allegany (Md.). 

In place of the Campers, Coach McElwee paid a team from Farmington West Virginia $500 to come play the Pioneers in Romney. 

With the support of the booster club, Coach McElwee also provided room and board for the out-of-town visitors and that gamble paid off as Romney rolled Farmington 32-6, then went on to clinch a berth into the championship game thanks to the additional playoff points earned from the midseason schedule change.

Sheer brilliance.

At the time, the WVSSAC had no rules forbidding teams to cancel games during the season and scheduling games with new teams. 

However, 1 year later, the WVSSAC installed a rule that stated a team could not add and subtract teams to their schedule during the course of a season.

Fast forward to 2020. The “Romney Rule” has been on the books for 70 years and yet few teams have paid attention to the rule that forbids rescheduling games midseason.

Sure, you can point to the fact that the unique circumstances caused by COVID should exonerate all rules across the board when it comes to scheduling, however, the simple fact remains: some teams, like the Hampshire Trojans, have stayed true to their original schedule. 

Imagine if all the big dogs in Class AAA are wiped out because they violated scheduling procedures. Goodbye, Martinsburg. So long, Spring Valley. Catch ya later, Cabell Midland. Adios, Musselman. 

The Hampshire Trojans, along with a handful of other AAA schools, would be the only teams eligible for the 2020 playoffs since they did not violate the “Romney Rule.” 

Fair? No. 

But what in 2020 has been fair?

I urge the SSAC to enforce the “Romney Rule” and disqualify any team that made midseason changes to their schedule because manipulation to the schedule is a violation of the rules. 

My creativity to keep Hampshire alive for a playoff bid regardless of their record deserves applause. 


Thank you. o

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