Alcorn’s McGowan upset by SWAC ruling

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 3, 2000

Usually the champion of a baseball division in the Southwestern Athletic Conference is busy preparing their teams for this week’s SWAC Baseball Tournament.

Alcorn head baseball coach Willie &uot;Rat&uot; McGowan had his team on the field, but there was no equipment in sight. McGowan was trying to explain to his team why they will not be participating in the tournament, something he has difficulty coming to terms with himself.

&uot;It’s embarrassing,&uot; McGowan said of new enforcement of an old rule regarding division games played that will keep his team out of the tournament. &uot;We’ve got a good team with five seniors and it’s not right to deprive them from showing their talent because we couldn’t get people to play us.&uot;

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SWAC commissioner Rudy Washington announced Monday that Alcorn, the East division leader, who finished 18-11 and 13-5 in the conference, would not be allowed to participate in the tournament because they did not play enough league games.

The tournament begins Thursday at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson.

The SWAC constitution requires each team to play 80 percent of its scheduled league games (26 of 32) to qualify for the tournament. Rain forced the postponement of four of Alcorn State’s weekend series.

McGowan said the ruling was unfair because, while the rule is part of the constitution, it had never been enforced before.

McGowan said he received a memo from the league office on April 17 notifying coaches that team’s would be barred from the tournament if they did not play enough games.

But by then, McGowan said, it was too late. He also said that he got little help from other coaches in rescheduling games.

”Mississippi Valley State and Alabama State wouldn’t cooperate,” McGowan said. &uot;We didn’t want to go to Pine Bluff (non-division game at Arkansas-Pine Bluff) because we needed to play a conference game, but nobody else would play us.&uot;

Valley and Alabama A&M was out of the running for a tournament spot.

&uot;I’ve called coaches two or three times to make up games,&uot; McGowan said. &uot;You shouldn’t have to beg coaches to play.&uot;

Washington said he did want to become involved in a dispute over who was at fault for the games not being played.

”One coach says one thing and another coach says something else,” he said. ”I’m not in a position to say who is right or wrong.”

McGowan leaves no doubt about who is telling the truth.

&uot;They’re lying,&uot; he said. &uot;Coach Wilson (Mississippi Valley coach Cleothis Wilson) is going to retire at the end of this year so he really wasn’t concerned about it. I needed nine games at my place. Why would I not want to play games at home? They just didn’t want to have to fool with the traveling, food and lodging.&uot;

As for the rule being ignored in the past, Washington said, that is also irrelevant.

”The issue is that’s the way it is now. I’m stepping in and correcting this. The people at Alcorn are a little hot right now and that’s a natural reaction.”

Neither Jackson State or Alcorn State played 26 division games last season, but both played in the SWAC tournament.

”I had to put some teeth into this matter and unfortunately they got bitten,” Washington said. ”I bet we don’t have this problem next year.”

&uot;We’ve never played 26 games in the Eastern Division and then all at once they come out with this ruling that they are enforcing all of a sudden,&uot; McGowan said &uot;We weren’t expecting this. How can you make up that many games in two weeks?&uot;

For now, McGowan has to console a team that is sitting on top of the division with nowhere to go.

&uot;These boys deserve a shot at winning the overall championship,&uot; he said. &uot;We have a tremendous ballclub and we were just jelling and peaking at the right time. I hate it for my seniors. We’ve got the two top hitters in the league (Dario Rosa and Nathan Kennedy) and it hurts me that they are getting deprived of playing. This is not just a ruling against the school, this effects the kids also. They never did it before even though the rule has been there. And then to do it at the last minute is not right.&uot;

McGowan said the SWAC champion will not be the true champion this year.

&uot;We did it on the field,&uot; he said. &uot;You win or lose ballgames on the field. I hate it for the players. And it’s tough because we’re tyring to build up our program.&uot;