Thursday, November 17

HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS' HORROR STORY (YOU WON'T BELIEVE IT)

I read a story over breakfast in today's print edition of the Houston Chronicle (registration required for online edition) and nearly sent a full gulp of coffee across the breakfast table, as I choked over what head coach Herc Palmquist of Texas Christian School did.

Texas Christian is a small parochial school near Katy, Texas, in the greater Houston area and is a member of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools. It has only 42 students in its entire student body. Accordingly, it plays six-man high school football.

Three weeks ago, on October 28th, Herc Palmquist took his team up to Austin, Texas, for a game with the Not Your Ordinary School's (NYOS) varsity squad. But Palmquist's team wasn't the team he normally fields. Why? Because he told his kids that the game with the NYOSs had been cancelled and to take the night off. Meanwhile, this paragon of coaching got together eight (8) college-age players and made the trip north thinking he'd put together a sure-fire winner of a team.

Looking back now, it should have been obvious that something was amiss about the adult football team that Texas Christian School fielded three weeks ago in Austin.

"Some of the guys had tattoos and full beards and looked like they were like 25," Not Your Ordinary School senior running back David Johnson said of his opponents that Oct. 28 afternoon. "At the time, we thought they were just sort of big.

"Now we see why they looked so old."


I read the whole story in the Chronicle incredulous over yet another story of Texas high school athletics gone wild, of adults -- coaches, administrators, and parents -- behaving badly and putting winning before anything and everything. You may recall my post, back in August, in which I pointed to a Rick Reilly column in "Sports Illustrated" in which he decried the state of high school football in Texas where teams in the Dallas area were recruiting the criminal cast-offs of other teams -- of varsity head football coaches willing to win at any cost and with total disregard for ethics and the obligation of amateur sports coaches to teach values, along with technique. I had also written two posts last May (here and here) on the multi-million dollar stadiums that are being built in Texas' large cities -- rivaling those of colleges -- for their high school football programs and at a time when public high school education in the Lonestar State is wanting for classrooms, labs, lecture halls, and libraries.

So here I was again: this time shaking my head at what Coach Palmquist did and how inappropriate the punishment meted out to him was.

Palmquist is serving a five-game suspension leveled by the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, which governs Texas Christian athletics. The board investigated after being tipped by Granger Huntress, administrator of the sports Web site sixmanfootball.com.

"My school supports me," Palmquist said in a phone interview last Friday. "We're just ready to get this behind us."


"Get this behind us!" Behind whom? This was unconscionable. High school-age boys could have been seriously injured by college-age men. Not to mention the injuries sustained to a team of young athletes told their game had been cancelled only to find out later that their head coach had lied to them in order to field what he thought would be a more competitive team that could win. Imagine that? Parents should entrust their sons to the judgement and motives and machinations of Coach Palmquist again? Incredible!

Palmquist founded Texas Christian, a TAPPS six-man school near Katy and incorporated under the Texas Christian Education Foundation, in 1990. Also the school's head administrator, Palmquist issued a letter of apology to the Texas Christian parents, faculty and student body Nov. 4, the day after his TAPPS suspension went into effect.

"I believe those who know me and know me well know that I would never intentionally hurt my savior, my family, TCS or any team," Palmquist said.


I believe that the parents of Texas Christian athletes who know Coach Palmquist ought to, at minimum, pull their sons and daughters from the school's athletic program or, better yet, ought to find a better private parochial school in which to have their children attend. Coach Palmquist should have been fired or at least removed permanently from his coaching responsibilities. What he did was outrageous and insufferable. How could a high school athlete or the parents of a high school athlete ever trust Herc Palmquist to do the right thing?

Founded in 1938 as a way to help small schools field football teams, the six-man leagues in Texas have avoided many of the recruiting scandals and eligibility problems that have plagued bigger high schools.

No one was injured during the game, but Alldredge said game film shows what he termed "some pretty nasty hits."


Palmquist deserved a much nastier hit then a five-game suspension. His "Friday Night Lights" should have had the plug pulled on them permanently.