A high school football coach in Nassau County, New York, was suspended for one game for allowing his team to score more than 42 points over a rival undefeated team. Ron Shaver, coach of the Plainedge High Red Devils, is accused of violating a sportsmanship rule designed to prevent dominant football teams from embarrassing less successful programs.
The Red Devils were playing the South Side High School Cyclones – another dominant team that had nearly completed the season undefeated. According to Nassau’s “Section 8 Lopsided Score Committee,” you can win – but not by more than 42 points. A fourth quarter touchdown by the Red Devils brought the score to 61-13, which violated the policy by six points.
Coach Shaver handled the one game suspension with grace but did get his sentiments out to the public for his team’s morale: “The spirit of the rule is to prevent better teams from running up on lesser programs and sportsmanship and dignity and all that stuff. I get it. That didn’t happen.”
Plainedge Public School Superintendent Edward Salina responded to the committee by slamming the policy and the call to “discipline” his coach – for winning. Salina issued a scathing statement leaving no doubt his lack of respect for the decision:
“I can state for the record that their rule is not working. I am all for treating everyone justly, but it is my opinion that Coach Shaver was ‘done wrong’ by this group of self-professed experts on sportsmanship. What are you teaching children by saying play fairly but now you are playing too well, don’t play anymore for the rest of the game? Where’s the life lessons? Who appointed these people to run this kangaroo court, being the judge, jury, and executioners? I have knowledge that there are cases in Nassau County where the score was over 42 and this group took little or no action.”
And even the coach of the Cyclones, Phil Onesto, agreed and spoke on the record stating the game was fair and just, saying, “I had spoken to coach Shaver, I told him I had no issues.”
The policy was introduced so that teams would not be embarrassed to be defeated badly, but it that a good reason to hold better teams back?
The simplest definition of sport is “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature.” Inclusion policies can cause problems for gifted athletes who may be trying to fund higher education through scholarship or perhaps even make it to a professional league. There was once a time when kids had tryouts. Also, not letting kids who don’t meet that baseline skill level required for competitive play keeps them out of harm’s way. It can be a danger for them to suit up against a stronger, more athletic, dominant team. That’s especially dangerous in football.
The one game suspension had coach Shaver off the sidelines as his team took on the Lynbrook Owls. By the third quarter, the Red Devils had amassed a 36-0 lead, and then they were simply forced to perform exactly what the “lopsided Rules Committee” demanded. They stopped playing their best. Faced with losing another coach, they began a strategy of punting on first down, taking a knee in the end zone, and running the clock.
It was humiliating for the Owls, as they did not work for or earn any respect from fans in the stands, and for the Red Devils, who were forced into making a mockery of the game.
Are these inclusion policies damaging athletics?