Our ongoing discussion of the sources of division between the affiliates of Region 2 and the NCFCA cannot be complete without considering the "Big Switcheroo of '08" aka the Irvine Non-Championship.
NCFCA Pulled Out of California Almost Four Years Ago
We begin this topic by looking back at history. Was there something wrong with the '06 San Diego Open? The interested reader may check this independently on the NCFCA website. From the founding of the league until the '06 SD Open, there were nine tournaments of national scope in NCFCA and five (5) of those were in California. Since that event, NCFCA has held fourteen (14) tournaments of national scope, and none (i.e.- zero) of those tournaments have been held in California. Of the last 14 national tournaments, three were held in the west, one in Ohio, and ten (10) have been held in former Confederate states, including the last four National Championships and all of last year's National Opens.
It is understood that some parts of the country aren't strong enough on the ground to run a National Open or Championship. This point has been made clear by the national leadership themselves in speeches at the Opens. Region 2, however, does have practice running large tournaments & all the big clubs who would contemplate proposing such a tournament are aware of the local burden required.
Did California Bid For A National Tournament?
In fact, there was an attempt to bring the '08 Nationals to Irvine. This was a very credible bid at a large facility with a strong on-campus advocate. Let me say clearly that I was not part of the team pitching this bid to the national leadership, but every affiliate in Region 2 who attended the qualifier in January was told "Nationals is (probably) going to be here this year". Most of the state was told as late as April 4th 2008 that the region 2 team was still working to bring NATs to CA, although the national leadership was apparently unhappy with the off-campus facilities at that point. Less than two weeks later, the Birmingham site was announced. Switching the site into Alabama that late came as a surprise & $ shock $ to many Region 2 affiliates who had been expecting a local event.
The Ill-Fated Alabama Nationals
There were three aspects of the Birmingham site which compounded the negative reaction of many Region 2 affiliates to that particular tournament, in escalating seriousness. First, when arriving in Alabama, it was clear from the slate of individuals running the event that there was no Region 2 responsibility at all: every announced tournament role was covered by regions 3 through 10. OK, so that's not a big deal, Region 2 gets the week off, but one can't help but wonder if it was a side-effect of the failed Irvine bid.
The second problem only lasted a day or two, it concerned Region 2 parents getting locked out of the IE judge pool. It seems the IE ballot push operation was told to enforce "state protect" for judge selection... except there's usually at least one Region 2 competitor in every room. Obviously this was a side effect of aspect #1, nobody involved in directing the IE ballot push had remembered California is a single state region. Now for some parents, being told "you can't judge that room" for all the available ballots is like getting a "get out of jail free" card & they will happily scamper off to watch their own children; but enough parents complained that the Region 2 leadership was able to correct the practice & by day three IE ballots were available to Californians again.
The third problem in Birmingham was the most serious by far. The mid-week banquet was listed in the official program as being held at "Zamora", which sounds vaguely like it might be serving Moroccan food? Driving off into the woods of Jefferson County one arrived at the "Zamora Temple", owned by a fraternal order & rented for the evening. This particular facility was festooned with Masonic symbols.
NCFCA affiliates are nothing if not diverse, and most of them take their faith pretty seriously. The vast majority of families with tickets marched in to eat dinner & listen for the breaks, but there was a fragment of the crowd which took deep offense to the facility & refused to enter. Although this fragment wasn't exclusively Region 2 (there were some Texans & possibly others), word spread among the CA competitors & many started approaching their parents asking to leave the disturbing temple.*
This disconnect is a cultural issue: renting such a facility was surely normal for affiliates in that part of the country. If the core national leadership was composed of a broader team, with representation from all parts of the country, could this error of providing spiritual offense to some NCFCA families have been avoided?
Shortly after the Birmingham site was announced, there was a prank posting on the web indicating the facility was some kind of dangerous wreck, this proved to be untrue. The school itself was fine & the full enclosure offered respite from the heat & humidity. The local club did a heroic job working the event & the community judge push was outstanding. It's important to note that almost everything which went wrong with the tournament was beyond the control of the local club, it's just really unfortunate that their tremendous efforts were marred by a few actions of the national leadership. Also, there was a great afterparty at a local park, organized by a prominent league leader from the South but heavily attended by Region 2, this helped improve the general mood. Due to all these positive aspects, many Region 2 affiliates would have surely gone back to the Alabama Open the following spring, if it didn't follow the San Diego Qualifier by two days (& some did anyway).
Was the Big Switcheroo an Isolated Incident?
Apparently not. Region 2 offered bids for National Opens in both '07 and '09 (at least) and neither one was accepted. So the last fourteen tournaments of national scope outside California cover a period when three serious Region 2 bids were turned down by NCFCA. Almost as bad as the "Big Switcheroo", there were only two National Opens in '09, leaving some to question if the NCFCA would rather skip a tournament than let an Open run in California.
I don't want to spend a lot of time on this topic, since it has been so extensively covered by other bloggers. Personally, I had no problem with the '09 NATs location: the facility was great, the weather was pretty good, everyone on campus was very friendly & the ballot working area was plush. The University seems eager to put the past behind them & get on with the 21st Century. But the topic of cultural disconnect cannot be passed over without mentioning this situation.
On the one hand, Bob Jones is a logical choice for an NCFCA tournament. Their student body includes a large proportion of home schoolers, and their curriculum is in use all across the country. But surely even the most ardent partisan of this school can admit that the choice for the '09 Nats was potentially controversial? That perhaps "inflammatory" would be a better word in the West, where the full spectrum of interracial marriages was common even in the 19th century? And that this inflammatory choice would be personalized in California, since every major club in Region 2 includes interracial affiliate families?
Also, the Protest That Didn't Happen was handled in a way that further alienated many Region 2 affiliates. The national leadership sent a letter to the league: "if you don't like the choice, don't come" (an option that wasn't available with Zamora due to lack of disclosure). Rumors of web-based witchhunts circulated, with threats to throw competitors out of the tournament. Finally, there was the "mandatory" orientation, wrapped in it's own threat & thereby tending to confirm the earlier rumors. This Protest Suppression Operation was "successful" in preventing an incident that might have fizzled out on it's own anyway, but at a price. Some people saw the national leadership as hypocritical, given the emphasis on "Generation Joshua" & political/cultural activism, others merely viewed the leadership's approach as a heavy-handed overreaction which tended to confirm & sustain the facility controversy in everyone's mind.
What I haven't seen posted about the '09 protest is the context of the immediately preceding Nationals. NCFCA alumni were a major factor in promoting the concept of a protest, they had all either experienced the "Zamora Ambush" or heard about it. For many Region 2 affiliates, Zamora & the Protest Suppression Operation were a "one-two punch" of regional insensitivity.
Is NCFCA Still A National League?
Looking back at the circumstances surrounding the '08 National Championship, it is clear that this sequence of events was a source of division between the national leadership & the many Region 2 affiliates let down by the "Big Switcheroo". It is also clear that the seeds of the Bob Jones protest were planted at the Zamora Temple.
Given the cultural disconnect between the geographically imbalanced national leadership & Region 2 affiliates, and the clear trend of moving NCFCA tournaments of national scope as far away from California as possible, one has to consider the question:
Does NCFCA still aspire to be a national league?
*Those who chose to stay that night were rewarded with one of the worst meals in the history of the league. This also led to the joke, circulated that summer, that the reason Region 2's bid for the '08 Nationals was turned down was because Irvine doesn't have a "Zamora Temple".