Last night, Panther Creek filed an appeal with the N.C. High School Athletic Association over the exclusion of its boys basketball team from the state playoffs.
This morning, NCHSAA commissioner Davis Whitfield responded saying there would be no change that would admit Panther Creek to the boys basketball playoffs.
A few hours later, Panther Creek athletics director Todd Schuler said in a written statement that the school will accept the NCHSAA ruling.
In Whitfield's response to Panther Creek's appeal, he says that the Board of Directors did not change the basketball qualification process in December. For the 4A bracket, that meant still having one wildcard from the east and one from the west.
The rules state that: "3. If there are not enough automatic qualifiers to fill the 64 teams, the remaining spots will be filled by wildcards (1A - 6 wildcards, 2A - None, 3A - None, 4A - 2 wildcards). 4. All 64 qualifiers will then be divided into 4 sections of 16 teams (East, Mideast, Midwest, West) by longitude."
"While the specific wildcard selection process was not spelled out, it was certainly understood by our staff and used on seeding day that we would remain consistent as in previous years in determining the qualification and wildcard selections," said Whitfield in the response.
"Again, the NCHSAA did not change the selection criteria, the selection criteria for automatic qualifications and wildcards remained in tact. What changed is the fact that the bracket went from pre-determined to seeded."
Panther Creek (11-12), which has the second-highest overall record of a 4A wildcard, had argued that according to the written rules, it would be in the playoffs as a wildcard, ahead of western wildcards -- the west received an extra one after an automatic qualifying team turned down its spot -- South Caldwell (10-13) and High Point Central (10-14). Fayetteville Terry Sanford (12-12) was the wildcard for the east and top wildcard in the state.
Said Schuler in his acceptance letter: "it is clear that the 2012 basketball seeding process communicated to athletic directors, coaches and media professionals was not written to a level of specificity that matches the level of discrection and freedom given to the NCHSAA staff members in interpreting the seeding process."
Schuler had talked with NCHSAA deputy commissioner Que Tucker yesterday after brackets were released, but the two sides came to an impasse that led to Panther Creek's appeal.
"I guess we should've said that the wildcards will come from the east, the wildcards will come from the west. If there is any blame, we accept that," said Tucker.
Panther Creek has deferred any further questions to the NCHSAA on the matter.
"We remain disappointed for our students, coaches and fans," said Schuler. "Nobody wins in a situation like this."
Note: We've attached Whitfield's full response to Panther Creek's appeal, and Panther Creek's written acceptance of the NCHSAA ruling.