If you don’t know who John Heisman is, you’re probably familiar with the college football trophy that was named after him. In 1916, the famed coach, then at Georgia Tech, made a bit of history. Outraged over Cumberland College using professional players in a baseball game against Tech earlier that that year, the Yellow Jackets beat Cumberland 222-0.
“As a general rule, the only thing necessary for a touchdown was to give a Tech back the ball and holler, ‘Here he comes’ and ‘There he goes,'” the Atlanta Journal reported at the time.
Heisman is still remembered as one of football’s great innovators and legendary sportsmen despite one of his teams putting up a score total you’d ordinarily find on a hacked copy of Tecmo Super Bowl. In fact, the game has become part of Heisman’s celebrated lore.
These are different times, however, and a Long Island football coach has been suspended for running up the score when his team’s blowout was nowhere near Heisman-tastic.
According to the New York Post, Rob Shaver of Plainedge High School in New York was punished by Nassau County high school sports officials under their “lopsided scores policy.”
Shaver, head coach of the undefeated Red Devils, received a one-game banishment for keeping his starters in too long during a 61-13 victory on Oct. 25 over the similarly undefeated South Side Cyclones.
Under a Nassau County policy, if a team wins by more than 42 points, the coach must explain to a special committee why his team won by that many points.
Shaver went before the committee and gave his explanation, which apparently wasn’t good enough for them. Thus, the coach will be sitting out his team’s final regular-season game.
Shaver is the first coach suspended under the 3-year-old policy, according to The New York Times.
“They thought it was a mismanaged game, which my opinion is, that isn’t the rule,” Shaver told Newsday.
“It should be: You ran up the score on purpose. That’s what the intent of the rule is for.”
Do you know who agrees with him? The coach of the other team.
“I had no issue with how the game went,” South Side coach Phil Onesto said.
“I had spoken to coach Shaver,” he said. “I told him I had no issues.”
Shaver told Newsday, “What made me the most upset, to be honest, is, listen, if the South Side coach complained and said, ‘This guy definitely ran up the score on us,’ well, then they should investigate.
“Because that’s the intent of the rule. 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.”
Edward A. Salina Jr., superintendent of Plainedge district schools, defended his coach in a public letter in which he bitterly denounced the decision.
“Who said they are experts on sportsmanship? 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. But they suspended Coach Shaver?” Salina said in the letter.
“Sounds like something is wrong with their decision or they made it personal,” he continued. “The rule is not in place anywhere else in New York, not in Suffolk County, why in Nassau County?”
A Message from your Superintendent – Hello Plainedge! This is Ed Salina, Superintendent of Plainedge Public Schools with an important message. Happy Halloween! Please review my Opinion Letter at: https://t.co/ANoTxXIPuE #WeArePlainedge pic.twitter.com/bvYx66qCQY
— Dr. Edward A. Salina (@SUPT_SALINA) October 31, 2019
“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,” he added. “Where’s the life lessons?”
Well, this is a life lesson, just not a particularly good one. What Nassau County officials have taught the kids here is simple: Don’t be too good. You might embarrass someone.
For whatever it’s worth, neither coach seems to have taken this lesson to heart, nor has Salina. After all, what Plainedge High School did is hardly Georgia Tech running up a 200-plus point score. The fact that Shaver has to sit out the next game is outrageous, particularly given the fact his team was undefeated.
Plainedge ended up winning that game 36-0. However, they made sure to not run afoul of Nassau County’s rules by punting on first down:
An example of what Nassau County’s sportsmanship rule has done. Plainedge is up on Lynbrook 36-0 and punts on first down. pic.twitter.com/NNisF32TzQ
— Roger Rubin (@RogRubin) November 2, 2019
You hope that Nassau County’s decision is just an outlier. The kind of indignation this has caused is proof that people are tired with participation-trophy culture. No, we don’t need to countenance 222-0 victories. This was hardly that, and the fact that officials thought this was worth suspending a coach over is indicative of how deep the cultural rot really is in some places.
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