Oct 10, 2011 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The Oct. 4 school board meeting at which was publicly discussed the status of the investigation into allegations of illegal recruiting and false residency of football players, was not only frustrating to witness, but also embarrassing. And I’m not talking about the board of education. I’m talking about the parents and residents and other 50 or so attendees of the meeting. The way they behaved, the personal attacks they made against the board, the sheer insularity with which they approached this issue was embarrassing. Embarrassing for them, embarrassing for our community.
It is embarrassing because, in the end, football is only a game.
Its advocates say it develops strength, character and integrity, and teaches young boys the meaning of teamwork. I’m sure it does. But when there are accusations that a football program is acting not just immorally but illegally, then to defend it, to say winning at any cost is more important than ethics, than morals, than fairness, than regulations and codes and laws, than the damage a negative adult influence can have on impressionable youth — and even apparently more important than academics — that is not only misguided but dangerous.
At the Oct. 4 meeting, there were numerous attendees who clearly, and vocally, cared about nothing other than a winning football team and season, regardless of how or why it happened. There were others at the meeting, players’ parents, who were so blinded by their love for and pride in their sons that they also saw everything as an attack on their kids, on their team and on their winning season.
Is this really what our community has come to? Do we care more about winning a game than about right versus wrong, honesty versus dishonesty, accountability versus selfishness?
It is painfully obvious that the school board was deluged with complaints — 63 complaints, Superintendent Phil D’Angelo revealed at the meeting — and was obligated to investigate. How could it not? If it did not, and the district was sanctioned by Section III and the team’s season dramatically affected, then all the people currently calling this a “witch hunt” against the coach and the team would be up in arms demanding to know why the district did not investigate.
Board President Evan Dreyfuss tried to make the point at the meeting that if he received eight calls from parents about a teacher abusing a student and the board did nothing, the entire board would be vilified and crucified for not acting, and yet in this similar situation they are being attacked precisely because they are acting.
The attendees shouted Dreyfuss down saying that was in no way a fair or comparable analogy. But it is both fair and comparable. The difference is that in this instance it is about a winning football coach and team rather than an abusive teacher or bullied student.
Also at the meeting it was brought up that the dozen or so football coaches and assistant coaches in Skaneateles run the program with “behavior unbecoming a professional.” Specifically, they curse and swear at the players, shout at them, ridicule them and verbally degrade them. They make the sport more like the military and the practices more like a boot camp than a form of recreation and team building.
Volleyball coach Doreen Doctor specifically broached this, and said, “If I did this I would be fired,” but since it’s the football team, many people don’t care, and many are afraid to speak out. Doctor also was shouted down by many in the audience that night.
One attendee angrily shouted out, “Everybody swears! It’s part of football.” Maybe in the NFL. It should not be in high school.
I myself attended a football practice over the summer to take photos and talk to Coach Green. I was stunned and appalled by the way some of the coaches talked to — actually screamed at and berated — some of the players. It was far beyond general swearing. It was screaming at the players with much fouler language, questioning their manhood.
I’m sure those coaches that use that language believe they are breaking down the boys in order to build them back up into unbeatable football-playing machines. Coach Green himself told me the reason there are so many assistant coaches is because he is running the program like a college football program.
But high school is not college; the maturity and impressionability of high school-age boys is far different from the same in college men. Unless we want the members of the Skaneateles football team to develop into bullies, these coaches’ tactics need to be addressed.
What I saw, and what others have seen and complained about, is unacceptable, and the school board needs to act on this. I know the last thing they want is another investigation into the football program, but as they have said and shown already, they care about doing what is right, not what is popular.
The fact that so many residents, parents and others in the district cannot see that the school board is doing exactly what they were elected to do — acting deliberately and judiciously in a matter of great concern and with great consequences — and are even insulting and attacking the board just because the football team happens to be having a winning season is as shameful and discouraging as the language some on the football coaching staff finds so acceptable to sling at teenage boys.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.