In case you haven’t heard, there was a high school coach in New York who was suspended for his team defeating an opponent, 61-13.
The Plainedge Red Devils entered their game with the South Side Cyclones recently with both teams undefeated. The Red Devils scored a fourth-quarter touchdown which set the score at a 48-point victory.
In Nassau County, New York, there’s a rule that states if a team wins by more than 42 points, the coach must give evidence to a special committee as to why the result was so lopsided. In many cases, if a team is using its second- or third-stringers, the lopsided win is not punished. But in this case, the coach in question, Robert Shaver, did not give a reasonable explanation and was suspended for a game. According to The New York Times, this was the first time a coach had been punished under the three-year-old rule.
Well, I’m here to say that’s ridiculous.
The first — and to me, most obvious — reason is the win was by 48 points. That means, the starters were still in when the score was a 41-point swing and in case you haven’t heard, you can’t score just one point in football. (OK, there is the one-point safety, but that never happens.) So, was the team expected to try not to score?
Another reason is both teams were undefeated going into the game. It’s one thing if a team tries to run up the score on an opponent that hasn’t won all season; that’s just cruel and unusual punishment. But both teams had the capability to win. South Side trailed by 35 points heading into the fourth quarter and who’s to say the Cyclones couldn’t have made a comeback? Crazier things have happened.
It also seems to me Nassau County should look into the running-clock rule, like what is instilled in the AHSAA. If a team is up 35 points in the fourth quarter and both coaches agree, the clock runs except for an injury timeout, a regular timeout or a change of possession. In many cases, that running clock — or even shortened quarters — can happen prior to the fourth quarter if both coaches and the officials agree.
I’ve always been on the fence about “blowouts” and how they should be handled. For instance, when a team is virtually assured a victory — say in the case of Reeltown versus Central Coosa this year — does that mean the starters for the winning team should be punished? I had an interesting talk with a coach back in Pennsylvania about this very subject. He made the point basically saying he didn’t want his starting girls (for a varsity basketball game) to not be allowed to play the vast majority of one of their games simply because they were ahead by so much. Why is that fair when the other team’s varsity players get all their time?
But aside from numbers and fairness and who won by how much, the most important thing here is keeping the integrity of the sport and understanding it’s about more than just wins and losses.
Reeltown is in the playoffs and could make a run at the state championship if it plays like it’s capable of for the next five weeks. But I would argue the boys of Central Coosa — and keep in mind, those seniors won one game in three years — have learned more life lessons than anyone in our coverage area by playing football. They’ve learned how not to give up; they’ve learned no matter how much you’ve got going against you, you have to keep fighting; they’ve learned even when all the chips are down (and they lost by more than 42 several times these past three years), you have to keep believing in yourself.
A team shouldn’t be punished for winning big, and a team that loses bad has that much more to take away for next time.