PRINCIPALS who have failed their students need to be held accountable and the Inter-Secondary School Sports Association (ISSA) needs to step into the technology age.
This is the response of some of the voices in local track and field regarding the controversy surrounding the schools which missed the deadline for the 2011 Boys & Girls Athletics Championships.
Two-time Boys champions St George's College and Morant Bay High School were among nine schools who missed the championships after failing to meet the March 10 deadline for entries.
The situation escalated to the point where Public Defender Earl Witter became involved. Some persons say the athletes should not be punished for the failure of their principals to meet the deadline, while others argue that athletes should be allowed to compete without earning points so they may still display their talents for potential scouts inside the National Stadium this week.
"Every leeway that is given is going to create a further back-up of the system," Paul Francis, coach of the MVP Track and Field Club opined to the Observer yesterday on day two of the Championships.
"What we should be complaining about is ISSA's administration and what they do with the money they make from 'Champs' that they still use this antiquated system. They still use so much paper.
"If they were electronic they could have a longer cut-off time, but with the system we use, everybody just has to take responsibility," Francis added.
Former general secretary of the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association (JAAA), Robert Stephenson, agreed.
"This is 2011," Stephenson said. "I have spoken to ISSA and I was told that they have software but the schools are not using it. If they used it then ISSA could accept applications up to a week before, but because you have to do it manually (they cannot)."
Neither Francis nor Stephenson believed the rules should be relaxed to allow the schools who missed the cut-off date to compete.
"Rules are rules," said Stephenson. "You know a year in advance that you need to send in your applications. This is a part preparedness because somebody has to be in charge."
Stephenson pointed out that the world governing body for athletics, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), no longer accepts paper applications for events and that ISSA, as a leading administrative body in the island, needs to follow suit.
However, track and field aficionado Laurel Smith was sympathetic towards the students who were missing an opportunity to earn scholarships by not competing.
"Let them compete, but let them not compete for points", Smith told the Observer. "They need to look into it. It seems hard. I think they should have been given a chance."
Smith was very frank in stating that the matter was not new and that it was only brought to the fore this year because two-time winners St George's had been left out.
"Because it is George's it leaves a stain on the whole thing. Last year the same thing happened and there was no uproar," he stated.
Track and field official John Messam had similar thoughts.
"The only reason we're talking about it is because some uptown people go hurt," Messam told the Observer.
"If it was Calabar or Kingston College there would have been a big hue and cry, but they would be out, because they are downtown schools."
He pointed out that even powerhouse Vere Technical was not spared when its principal, Ben Francis, was president of ISSA and that former long jump national record-holder Elva Goulbourne was on the cover of the Champs magazine but could not compete because Dinthill was not entered when they missed the deadline.
Messam felt the real culprits, the principals who did not hand in the entries on time, should be held responsible.
"Dereliction of duty is an actual offence," Messam said. "The school must be held accountable.
"As a parent I can go at the headmaster and at the PTA. They should go and hold him responsible for this travesty, this injustice," he added.
Charlemont athlete Gresford Williams also felt the rules should be upheld, but told the Observer he did not know what his reaction would be if he was told he could not compete despite training for so long.
"Teachers should be more responsible. I would be very upset, but the athletes should have questioned the team managers so they wouldn't miss it," he said.
Veteran journalist Ed Barnes, who works closely with ISSA on 'Champs', said while he agreed that adults had failed the children, the idea of giving the schools which had missed the date a second chance was unacceptable.
"It's unfortunate, but it's nothing new. Our country is run too much on 'blys' and that is hurting our country. We need to stop it," Barnes said.