FanDuel - WFBC

May 12, 2010

"I know a lot of rules and regulations.": A high school league championship in track and field was decided on a points deduction when Coach Mike Knowles spotted Robin Laird breaking the rules. Her infraction: wearing a friendship bracelet. Her pole vault would have helped her team win the meet, but she was disqualified. Knowles's team took home the trophy.

posted by Uncle Toby to general at 09:12 AM - 35 comments

Oh dear.

However I imagine that young Robin Laird will learn a valuable lesson from this. That lesson being that she will make something of her life and not end up at age 54 hanging around junior sporting events and being a complete douchebag like Coach Knowles.

Seriously, can't someone from the athletic association do something about this? Isn't there a Not Being a Dickhead clause somewhere in the by laws?

posted by owlhouse at 09:43 AM on May 12

Boy, that's a sorry thing for the coach to do. I find it hard to believe that he only noticed the bracelet after the vaulter completed the jump to beat his team and win the title. I don't know what Mike Knowles looks like, but I'm picturing him as Sue Sylvester with a slightly less masculine haircut.

posted by rcade at 09:55 AM on May 12

Yeah, that is pretty shocking that a coach could feel comfortable retreating to the rules are the rules in an instance like this. I'm glad he is getting negative attention for this. I love that he claimed that he just so happened to see the bracelet after the winning pole vault.

posted by bperk at 10:00 AM on May 12

Senior year I forgot to remove a bracelet (similar to a livestrong one) from my wrist before one of my races during a swim meet. In this case the ref noticed it but only left me off with a warning, however if it had been a close meet and not a blowout (the other team wasn't very good) there is a good chance I'd have been disqualified.

That said, I can't see how this victory feels anything but hollow.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 10:00 AM on May 12

One of the ways I think through situations like this is ask who I'd rather be related to. Can you imagine if that coach were, say, your brother-in-law? Talk about an awkward Memorial Day barbeque on the patio.

Further down that line, I'm glad he's not coaching my kid. And if I ever catch one of my boys' coaches pulling stunt like that...trouble.

posted by Uncle Toby at 10:17 AM on May 12

While I can understand why such a rule would be there, it isn't like the bracelet could do anything to improve the athlete's performance. This reminds me of the story from a year or two ago where the softball team had a run taken away because the girl who hit the home run slapped hands with teammates before touching home. In both cases, the coach comes off looking quite petty. I agree that some sort of "Not Being A Dickhead" rule needs to be invoked here.

posted by TheQatarian at 10:23 AM on May 12

There's some interesting comments in the Pasadena paper about this controversy. Knowles' comment to the paper, "I hate that. I didn't want to do that," is incredibly disingenuous. No one was forcing him to bring up the infraction.

posted by rcade at 10:26 AM on May 12

It's unfortunate, but High School Coaches are judged on their record and not their personality. I agree with it being in very poor taste, but IF the events leading to the outcome are ever forgotten, his name will be on the Championship Banner in the Gym forever as being the Coach that beat a powerhouse team.

While I don't condone the actions at all, it would have been much worse in a Middle School, or Youth Rec league where there should be even more emphasis on sportsmanship and fundamentals.

I don't want to sound like I'm defending him........the guy's a douche in my book, but there are many more on the same level or worse at every level of play.

posted by kcfan4life at 10:45 AM on May 12

Sounds like Monrovia's a class operation all around. Not only did they legislate their way to the girls' title, but they made a run at the JV boys' title as well:

"In a similar league title showdown in the boys meet, South Pasadena easily took the crown when Monrovia elected to drop most of its athletes to the soph-frosh level in an effort to win that title."

posted by yerfatma at 11:47 AM on May 12

And they would've gotten away with it too if it wasn't for those pesky kids.

Muwawawaaaa!

posted by BoKnows at 12:14 PM on May 12

It looked more like a "sweatband" than a piece of jewlery to me.

posted by Knuckles at 12:48 PM on May 12

"I feel bad for what happened, but I guarantee you she'll never wear jewelry during a track meet again."

And I guarantee, Mr 30-Year-Coach, that you'll never be at a track meet for the rest of your life without someone shouting "Hey, are you the asshole who gets people disqualified for wearing friendship bracelets?"

posted by etagloh at 01:49 PM on May 12

Not only did they legislate their way to the girls' title, but they made a run at the JV boys' title as well:

Ironically even with them dropping athletes down to that level to compete they still didn't win the JV title.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 02:50 PM on May 12

I hope every other coach he plays demands an inspection of his team for rule infractions before every meet.

posted by irunfromclones at 03:13 PM on May 12

It sucks when amateur athletics copy what happens in the pros.

posted by grum@work at 03:43 PM on May 12

If ever there was a case of winning the battle but losing the war, this would be it. Knowles might have gotten his team the title, but he's tainted his own name and his school's name in the process. He's drawn unwanted negative publicity to himself and his program. He's made himself this month's poster child for bad sportsmanship.

One thing about our modern age, karma can genuinely be instant.

posted by Joey Michaels at 04:14 PM on May 12

It sucks when amateur athletics copy what happens in the pros.

At least they got that one right in the end. Afraid there is no such result pending here.

posted by holden at 04:14 PM on May 12

One thing about our modern age, karma can genuinely be instant.

No doubt, and here's hoping this guy suffers some bad karma for quite a while.

As to Monrovia dropping players down to JV in an attempt to win on that level, I know several coaches that have taken that route. All of them are complete assholes.

posted by dviking at 05:49 PM on May 12

Despite the outrage, this rule and its enforcement is a well-known fact of HS track in the US. I've seen it happen many times at HS track meets (well, not many times, because everyone knows the rule gets enforced) that an official will spot a religious medal or something. There isn't any discretion, and the kid is DQ'd. The SI article is kind of stupid, or perhaps just written by someone who spends most of his time covering basketball or hockey.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:53 AM on May 13

The Pasadena reporter who broke the story is claiming that Knowles is getting a bad rap. He said some officials had left before this final jump -- a violation of the rules too, naturally -- and it was cold so the athlete was wearing sweats up until the jump. "He likely did not see the bracelet, like I did, until after her jump," the reporter writes.

The reporter also points out, though, that Knowles' own squad was spared an automatic disqualification for the same rule earlier in the meet. The official gave their athlete a warning to remove his jewelry.

Interesting that Knowles was OK with the disqualification of a rival athlete for an offense that got his own athlete a warning.

posted by rcade at 10:07 AM on May 13

The reporter also points out, though, that Knowles' own squad was spared an automatic disqualification for the same rule earlier in the meet. The official gave their athlete a warning to remove his jewelry.

Interesting that Knowles was OK with the disqualification of a rival athlete for an offense that got his own athlete a warning.

"OK" is a funny choice of words on what's supposed to be an automatic DQ. The earlier "warning" was a failure of officiating, not Knowles' failure.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 10:47 AM on May 13

The earlier "warning" was a failure of officiating, not Knowles' failure.

But Knowles pointed out the friendship bracelet after his athlete had escaped punishment for the same offense. That one is all on him.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 11:00 AM on May 13

I don't see it, Yang. He wasn't the one who made the bad call.

The second article is worth a read if you haven't done so already. Bottom line: it was a sloppily officiated meet in which several officials clearly didn't know what they were supposed to be doing. When things get that sloppy, there's really not any point in trying to balance out a bad call with another bad call, is there?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 11:06 AM on May 13

Knowles knows "a lot of rules and regulations," LBB. His own athlete got a warning, but he let an opposing athlete get disqualified later in the same meet for the same offense. His posturing in the press has been that rules are rules and he hates to see this happen. Why weren't rules rules earlier in that meet when it hurt his own team? The situational ethics are galling.

When things get that sloppy, there's really not any point in trying to balance out a bad call with another bad call, is there?

Yes there is a point to that. It's an equitable result to let an opponent off with a warning when your own athlete got that treatment. His own athlete got to avoid the shame of a DQ that let down his teammates. Why would he not extend that to an opponent?

One of the commenters in my last link points out the way Knowles should have handled the incident. He should have informed the other coach of the infraction and let that coach and player decide whether to self-report. Then none of this would be on him, and no one would be accusing him of a win-at-all-costs mentality.

posted by rcade at 11:34 AM on May 13

His own athlete got a warning, but he let an opposing athlete get disqualified later in the same meet for the same offense.

"Let" an opposing athlete? It was a ruling by an official. Coaches don't "let" officials rule.

His posturing in the press has been that rules are rules and he hates to see this happen. Why weren't rules rules earlier in that meet when it hurt his own team? The situational ethics are galling.

Whatever, but you seem to be under some misunderstanding that he was in control of the ruling in either case. He wasn't. One official ruled correctly, one did not. The calls went KNowles' way, and he didn't argue with it, but do you get this outraged when watching a baseball game, an umpire calls something down the pipe a ball, and the coach of the at-bat team doesn't jump up and start yelling, "No way, ump! That was a strike! I insist that you call that strike on my batter!"?

Yes there is a point to that. It's an equitable result to let an opponent off with a warning when your own athlete got that treatment. His own athlete got to avoid the shame of a DQ that let down his teammates. Why would he not extend that to an opponent?

Because rules and officiating isn't about hurt feelings, it's about results. If the results have been corrupted by bad rulings, you can't un-corrupt them by throwing in more bad rulings in some mistaken attempt to balance things out. Track meet scoring is just not that simple.

One of the commenters in my last link points out the way Knowles should have handled the incident. He should have informed the other coach of the infraction and let that coach and player decide whether to self-report.

And what, in your view, would have been the desired outcome? What would be accomplished if the other team self-reported, or if they didn't self-report?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 11:55 AM on May 13

Because rules and officiating isn't about hurt feelings, it's about results.

Really? That's the point of high school athletics? I hate to be so petty, but I can assure you that's going to come back to bite you in another thread. Sport is only about outcomes if we let it be. It hasn't always been so and in some countries that aren't obsessed with Vince Lombardi, it still isn't. I was amazed, reading Inverting the Pyramid, that the idea of using a final score to decide which was the better football team was seen as distasteful for a long time. One of the things I'm enjoying in coming back to football/ soccer is that attitude still exists in "The Beautiful Game".

If you're insisting the singular point of high school officiating, something done by people in their spare time who often arrive from their "real job" just before the event, is to challenge the atomic clock for accuracy and coldness, we'll just have to leave it there.

posted by yerfatma at 12:18 PM on May 13

I said:

Because rules and officiating isn't about hurt feelings, it's about results.

yerfatma said:

Really? That's the point of high school athletics?

Emphasis mine. Two different phrases. Two different things.

The point of officiating a sport, at any level, is not to avoid hurt feelings -- that task belongs to others (parents, friends, teammates, coaches, competitors, whatever). It is about results: not "results" as in winning, if that's not obvious, but "results" in the sense of applying the same set of standards and requirements to all athletes, hence creating a situation that results in no unequal burden or benefit. That is what you need to strive for in officiating.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 12:55 PM on May 13

"results" in the sense of applying the same set of standards and requirements to all athletes

How does that square with what inspired your post, arguing with rcade that the ref was under no obligation to enforce the rules in the same manner for both teams? I get the idea that calling a bunch of strikes after a bad ball call isn't what an official should do, but that's not a direct comparison here. The ref decided to let one participant off with a warning but then enforced the rule on someone else.

posted by yerfatma at 01:00 PM on May 13

"Let" an opposing athlete? It was a ruling by an official. Coaches don't "let" officials rule.

They certainly do. A coach who sees a minor rules violation that misses the attention of the officials can choose to ignore it. The stories make pretty clear that the rule was enforced because the coach made an issue of it.

Because rules and officiating isn't about hurt feelings, it's about results.

The result of the earlier event was that this coach's player wasn't disqualified.

And what, in your view, would have been the desired outcome?

My desired outcome is one in which the winning coach didn't use a strategically timed disqualification to hand his team a title. If the other coach self-reports, then it's an act of good sportsmanship to concede the violation. If the other coach doesn't, then the team that jumped the highest wins the title.

A friendship bracelet didn't make that girl vault higher.

posted by rcade at 01:11 PM on May 13

yerfatma:

How does that square with what inspired your post, arguing with rcade that the ref was under no obligation to enforce the rules in the same manner for both teams? I get the idea that calling a bunch of strikes after a bad ball call isn't what an official should do, but that's not a direct comparison here. The ref decided to let one participant off with a warning but then enforced the rule on someone else.

I don't think that's what happened. Unless I'm completely mistaken, they were two different officials. It's doubtful either knew of the other's ruling, at least not until all this drama.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 01:16 PM on May 13

rcade:

The result of the earlier event was that this coach's player wasn't disqualified.

And as I have already explained, at the point that a meet's results are tainted by flawed officiating, you can't "un-taint" it by more bad rulings.

A friendship bracelet didn't make that girl vault higher.

Then go argue to the National Federation of State High School Associations that they should change this rule, and in the future, it won't be a problem if athletes want to wear friendship bracelets. Right now, it is the rule, and it's not some weird little obscure rule -- it's very well known, as I said, because so many athletes have been disqualified as a result of it. It's doubtful that any of their jewelry had any effect on their performance, for better or worse. Doesn't matter. It is a well known rule, and it's also well known that there's no point in breaking this rule and then saying, "But it didn't help me!" when you get caught.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 01:21 PM on May 13

I'm quitting this game, but I'd like to know what your thesis is. It's frustrating to watch you spend thousands of pixels trying to turn the argument any which way but in the direction people are actually talking.

posted by yerfatma at 01:38 PM on May 13

I don't think that's what happened. Unless I'm completely mistaken, they were two different officials. It's doubtful either knew of the other's ruling, at least not until all this drama.

What is not in doubt is that the coach knew of both those ruling, and he chose to report the "violation" anyway. It wasn't like the official noticed and ruled accordingly. The coach reported it in a successful effort to get her DQ'ed. That's just bad sportsmanship.

posted by bperk at 02:39 PM on May 13

Really? That's the point of high school athletics? I hate to be so petty, but I can assure you that's going to come back to bite you in another thread. Sport is only about outcomes if we let it be

Most high school coaches make it all about the outcome. Not as often on junior varsity sports, but varsity sports don't put emphasis on having fun. It is all about who comes out on top.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 03:29 PM on May 13

Holy shit lbb, you sure love the rules.

I would like a common sense ruling on this. Are certain rules more important than others? Are all rules equally important?

Rules don't exist in some separate universe of infallibility and we can use our big brains to figure out when the application is appropriate and when it isn't. It's a fucking bracelet. It's a high school meet. Perspective, please.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 06:13 PM on May 13

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