West Des Moines Dowling Catholic’s girls’ basketball team will open Class 5-A regional play Saturday — but unlike most ranked schools, the Maroons will be forced to go on the road.
The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union requires host schools to use a specific basketball during regionals. More specifically, the Spalding TF1000 Legacy.
Last year, Dowling instead used a different ball in a 37-35 regional semifinal win over Ottumwa.
The Union was informed of the illegal substitution and slapped Dowling with a penalty — the team would lose its home court advantage this time.
Instead, No. 8-ranked Dowling will face Des Moines Roosevelt at 5 p.m. at rival West Des Moines Valley’s gym.
This may seem nitpicky, but there are reasons behind the ball rule, according to Joel Oswald, assistant director of the Union.
“The biggest thing is consistency,” Oswald said. “We don’t want someone using a Rawlings, someone using a Wilson and someone using a Spalding.”
The IGHSAU board approved a five-year contract with Spalding last March to use its basketballs in tournament play. The contract calls for Spalding to pay an annual $30,000 fee, a $10,000 increase per year over the previous Spalding deal.
The Legacy basketball is common for women’s and girls’ games. Players who use the ball in every tournament game will be accustomed to the texture and channels.
The Union, as well as the boys’ Iowa High School Athletic Association, use specific equipment for other sports when sanctioned. Iowa girls use Spalding products in volleyball and soccer, a Dudley softball and US Open Select tennis balls during tournament play.
Dowling won’t get a girls’ home game in regionals this season. If the Maroons win Saturday’s regional semifinal, they’ll play the final at Des Moines Hoover at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“I feel bad, but if they don’t follow the rules, you have to have some type of consequences,” Oswald said.