High school football coach suspended for running up the score

The football coach at Plainedge High School in Long Island, New York, has been suspended for one game. His crime? His team played too well.

According to Newsday, coach Rob Shaver was suspended after the Plainedge Red Devils beat the South Side High School Cyclones 61-13 in October. Shaver apparently broke a sportsmanship rule passed three years ago that was instituted to prevent “lopsided” wins.

From Newsday:

The rule mandates that the coach of a team that wins by more than 42 points must submit in writing the lengths to which they went to avoid running up the score. If the committee determines the coach acted appropriately, there is no suspension.

The “lopsided-score committee” decided that Shaver didn’t take his starters out quickly enough when the Red Devils took a commanding lead, which is one of the ways a coach can avoid running up the score. He missed the last game of the Red Devils’ regular season due to his suspension.

Shaver, who has been coaching varsity football at Plainedge High School for more than 20 years, told Newsday that he doesn’t agree with the committee’s decision.

"They thought it was a mismanaged game, which my opinion is, that isn't the rule. It should be: You ran up the score on purpose. That's what the intent of the rule is for."

"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."

Both Plainedge and South Side were undefeated coming into their matchup, which is why Shaver left his starters in at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Even though Plainedge had a 35-point lead, Shaver said he was afraid of South Side staging a comeback.

South Side coach Phil Onesto told Newsday that he had spoken to Shaver and had no problem with how the game went. But the committee wasn’t satisfied with the explanation Shaver submitted and voted unanimously to suspend him, making him the first varsity coach to be suspended under the rule.

Jim Amen, committee member and Manhasset School District athletic director, explained why he voted for Shaver to be suspended.

"He expressed his opinion that he did not purposely run up the score and that he's had frustrations throughout the year that he could have beat teams by 60 points and didn't. The score was 48-13 at the end of the third quarter. I wasn’t there, but I’m not so sure that South Side was going to come back and score one, two, three touchdowns.”

Shaver told Newsday that he’s frustrated by the rule because it limits how he can use his starters — and in turn, it limits how much his starters get to play in games. Plainedge won each of their last three games by more than 42 points, and his starters have been getting little actual playing time. In each of those instances, Shaver’s written explanations were accepted by the committee.

Shaver isn’t alone in his frustration. In a statement released to New York’s NBC4, Plainedge Public Schools superintendent Edward Salinas Jr. called the committee a “kangaroo court,” and asked, “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?”

Sisi Thompson, a member of the Plainedge School Board, agreed, telling NBC4 “I do understand that they have rules in place, but ultimately we want our children to be challenged.”

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