Thoughts on the Appeal and the SCHSL

Our thoughts on the recent South Carolina High School League concerning Marlboro and Nortwestern and how the decision will affect the state in the years to come.

It was big news for 2 weeks, it dominated the boards and water cooler discussions for days and then it kind of faded to the back ground.

 

Initially most of us thought that the ruling would be reversed. After all here we had two of the top programs in the state and two of the most respected coaches in the entire state. And to top it off, the SCHSL has a history of backing down from confrontation if there is any other possible option.

 

During the past 2 months, both Northwestern and Marlboro had established new programs and procedures to enrich their student athlete's lives. The leadership of the schools stood up and changes were made. Students were suspended from future games. Procedures were enacted and everyone that saw this Character Enrichment Program was impressed.

 

Football players were seen reading to children, they were involved in community service projects, soup kitchens and pantries were helped and many of the less fortunate in Bennettsville and Rock Hill saw our young people giving back. We were all proud of these actions and encouraged by what we saw.

 

Then 3 weeks ago, SC Pigskin Prep learned that the overwhelming majority of the Executive Committee had decided prior to yesterday that the decision of the SCHSL would stand. A source close to the committee told us that there was not a chance in h@@@ they would be allowed back in the playoffs. He referred to the Monday hearing as an exercise to confirm what he we already knew.

 

More information was then learned by SCPP. The initial decision back in September by the SCHSL included ending the season of one the teams involved. In fact the committee had decided that was the course of action they were going to follow. After further discussions, the committee changed their thought process and decided to place both teams on probation and expel each team from the playoffs. Based on this new fact, it seemed hard to believe that a team was going from the "death penalty" to reinstatement in just 6 weeks time.

 

Last night a different source shared this information with us. The Executive Committee felt they had no choice but to uphold the decisions. If the SCHSL had changed the appeal then there would have been no real punishment for either team. The only punishment that they would have received would have been the suspension and expulsion of 20 players and a $500 fine. We were also told that by making the decision, the SCHSL had essentially sent a message to all coaches and all players and teams that the SCHSL was clamping down.

 

After problems that had occurred in other football games, in basketball games, and in soccer games, the SCHSL had the unique opportunity to correct past leniencies and place the hammer down on future potential problems. Another source said "unfortunately Marlboro and Northwestern are going to serve as the whipping boy for all the crap that has occurred in many sports over the past few years."

 

It appears that the SCHLS was presented with a golden opportunity to make a strong statement and they jumped all over it. The brawl between 2 high profile teams, 2 teams that played for a state title, presented incredibly strong press coverage and public outrage. After years of progressively worse behavior from fans, players and coaches, the SCHSL had to act and act strong and they did. There was really no other choice for the committee and in this case the decision was correct.

 

Last week I spoke with Coach Boyd about the pending meeting (repeated attempts were made to contact Coach Wallace unsuccessfully) He was hopeful and thought Marlboro had a strong case. He was hopeful for the community, the school and the team. One thing he said really stuck out to me. Boyd stated "regardless what happens Monday, I think we are all better people and we have come so far from this……………We have learned more about ourselves as men than we ever learned about ourselves as football players……………. I think future teams will benefit from what we have done to make our team and school stronger"

 

To me that speaks volumes. Mistakes were made by Marlboro and Northwestern. There are no innocents here and both teams equally share the blame. But I have always believed that the character of a man is judged by what he learns from his mistakes and how he reacts. In this case Marlboro has acted admirably and should be commended.

 

But that does not erase the earlier misdeeds. The punishment and ruling are fair and just. It is tough, no doubt. It hurts the seniors who will never wear the pads again. It hurts the fans whom support the teams passionately and it hurt the schools that lose a home gate for the playoffs. Other sports teams will suffer with the loss off tens of thousands of dollars.

 

Some have said it is not fair since only a few were involved and not the whole team. But that does not hold water. Teams win and lose, cry and laugh, hurt and heal, and live together as a TEAM. When teams win championships everyone down to the last man on the 4th string gets a medal. All are listed in the roster and all players have the same rules to go by. Unfortunately some innocents are punished but that is the nature of team sports.

 

Last season the University of Alabama was placed on probation by the NCAA for numerous violations. The coach of that team, the AD, many players and even the President of that school are no longer there. The coach was fired, many players were released from scholarship, and others graduated. In total only a handful of players and coaches were involved. But the entire Alabama family will suffer these current punishments. A new coach is there, many new players and even new athletic leadership. The punishment of no bowls and few scholarships hurts Coach Francoine and this team, not the coach and team that broke the rules. But that is the rules, sometimes the innocent suffer. Sometimes we bear the brunt of other's wrongdoings. Sometimes is just isn't fair.

 

But the SCHSL was right. They made a stand here and both teams learned a hard, harsh lesson. The playoffs will go forward. 31 teams will vie for titles. It will be a great  4 weeks of football. We will miss the Dogs and Trojans and wish they had the chance to compete. But in the end like Coach Boyd said, we will be better for this and all of South Carolina High School Football will be stronger for years to come.


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