Sports Editor’s Playbook, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012

Patrick Newell

A quick thought or two on the Unadilla Valley football team. While most great football programs have entrenched coaching staffs, UV has had a veritable coaching carousel with four head coaches over the past four years. I learned early this past summer that last year’s head coach would not be returning. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks before preseason practice started that I was told Daryl Decker would be taking the head coaching reins. During my preseason interview, Daryl was quick to point out that he was not the sole head coach, and in fact considered Jim DuVall his co-head coach. The two of them worked together as Physical Education teachers a few years ago at UV, and both had a high regard for this current crop of students.  That is why the two of them agreed to split the head coaching salary this season. Why split the salary when it is standard in high school varsity football to pay at least one or two assistants in addition to the head coach? Because the UV school district’s athletics budget only allowed for one paid varsity football coaching position. I am not familiar with the limitations of UV’s budget, but I do know paying just one varsity football coaching position is setting up a program to fail. If you know of any other football team in Central New York that pays just one varsity football coach, please let me know.

Greene’s field hockey team has won several state titles, all in the Class A or Class B ranks. For those who do not know, the Trojans have been a Class C-sized school for as long as they have had a field hockey program, and for the first time, will compete in sectional play against other Class C schools. Head coach Sue Carlin decided it was best for her team to move back to Class C, that despite a tremendous winning record on the state level against schools significantly larger. “Our enrollment keeps dropping, and we’ll be pretty close to a Class D school in a few years,” Carlin said. “This is a special, talented group of girls, and I felt they deserved a chance to play against schools their own size.”

Lights are coming to Otselic Valley – for one weekend at least. The Vikings are renting lights for next weekend when the varsity and modified will compete in a two-day tournament. OV girls’ soccer coach, Kevin Springer, said this is the first he can ever remember Otselic Valley played any type of a night game — in any outdoors sport. “It’s a big promotional thing and great for the kids,” Springer said. The tournament will also serve as a fundraiser for the OV sports programs as concessions will be available throughout the weekend. Prior to the tournament, community members are invited to participate in a bonfire Thursday evening. “There is going to be a lot of soccer played (here) next weekend,” Springer said, summing up the tournament.

I think everyone is happy the “professional” NFL referees will return to the field this week (assuming all of the I’s are dotted in the tentative labor agreement). As for Monday night’s controversy, I have little new to add to what has already been discussed. Oh, if you’re in the one percentile of sports fans who didn’t hear, the NFL’s replacement officials blew it – big time. It is clear the referees got it wrong, and the NFL front office wrongly backed an egregious mistake. Everyone with an opinion complained ad nauseum about the need to replace the imposters, and it seems those voices were heard. One complaint I heard was to bring back the “real” referees. Let’s get this straight, the replacements in black and white stripes were real referees, not just getting a jump on their planned Halloween costume. They’re like you and me – working a day job, then officiating on the weekends for extra money. The difference is that these guys only had to learn a rulebook that is approximately one-fourth the size of the NFL’s rules and casebook. In 2003, I spent the fall months officiating local football games. My rulebook was probably 60 or 70 pages, and we had weekly meetings during the summer to review the various sections of that book. I have to assume that the NFL’s replacement officials, many of whom were high school officials, were versed in the same book I studied. It takes weeks and months of study to learn high school rules, and even longer to recognize how to correctly implement all of them during actual game action. Even though you might know what a holding call looks like, sifting through the mass of players and recognizing it with little or no time to spare is much more difficult. Compare that to the NFL rulebook. I opened a PDF file of the rulebook, and it was 244 pages. Someone recently told me that the number of words in the NFL rulebook (along with supplements for rules interpretation and implementation) exceeds the number of words in the bible. I can’t confirm that, and I sure as heck am not going to count words. Anyway, it is inconceivable that any replacement referee could ingest up to four times more rules information in a few weeks. And, as I said, to not only know the rules, but have the mental acuity to implement those rules expeditiously. That is why we saw such lengthy delays and endless referee conferences during games. No one person knows everything written in the NFL rulebook, and the substitutes who filled in for several weeks knew far short of everything. With the labor battle over, I almost choked when I saw the final agreed-upon salaries of the NFL officials. Hard for me to garner much sympathy for their plight when the five-year accrued salary for an NFL referee is between $900,000 and $1 million. That’s entertainment!

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