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February 18, 2008

Floyd Irons paid so they could play.: An interesting article about one of the most successful big-school basketball coaches in Missouri state history. Note: For those not familiar with the region, the city of Alton (mentioned in the article), is in Illinois. Google map here.

posted by BoKnows to culture at 12:48 PM - 19 comments

I remember all of the community outrage when this guy was fired. I hope they are keeping up on all of the developments and are outraged that he never paid for their sons to play basketball. I love his angle-- I did it so they wouldn't be on the streets... so they could go to college. He forgot-- for a select few... for a limited time... as long as I am making money. STL public schools are in shambles and this guy makes 90K? Its no wonder STL public schools are a joke and are not capable of managing without state intervention.

posted by cardsfan at 02:04 PM on February 18

People need to get over the concept of paying atheletes to play. Our history is full of generous (albiet for sometimes self indulgent reasons) benefactors taking in and mentoring underpriviged youths for a large variety of reasons from academics to art and music. These children recieved opportunities based on the promise that they showed and the renown that the mentor recieved when they did well. That advent of commercial sports moved this into the realm of athletics. I can't imagine anyone would really be outraged at this if a teacher had brought a "math prodigy" into the district and had them participate in a district wide science fair. The problem arises with the underhandedness of it brought upon by the strict rules governing the athletics programs. Why not just call it what it is and let it be. This presumption that it isn't fair to the other kids is ridiculus. No two people are given the same abilities, opportunities, or circumstances in this life. The kids that aren't as good may as well get used to it, or try harder.

posted by Hannibal at 03:03 PM on February 18

I can't imagine anyone would really be outraged at this if a teacher had brought a "math prodigy" into the district and had them participate in a district wide science fair. Vashon High School ranks 491st out of 494 Missouri State Schools. A "math prodigy" would be a welcome addition to that district. That school is focused on basketball and basketball only, not education. And when a school ranks as low as they do academically, $90,000 a year for a basketball coach is not justified or practical. The St. Louis Public School System is in shambles, and has been for a long time now. Here's a recent article regarding the state of the Superintendent's position. The boys in question were from a different district, they were given an apartment (rent-free) and all they had to do was play basketball. So, after high school, they would end up with what? A 1% chance of going pro? They didn't get a quality education. That's what high school is about, not basketball. This presumption that it isn't fair to the other kids is ridiculus. That statement is ridiculous. High-Schoolers should not be paid to go to school under any circumstance. I don't care if it is Art, Music, Science, Math, or Sports. The primary reason for school is education, not extra-curricular activities. Those are perks. The kids that aren't as good may as well get used to it, or try harder. Most kids will never have the ability of a professional athlete, no matter how hard they try. There are 1300 students in that school, and only what 20 of a basketball team. Sorry, you missed the boat on this one, Hannibal. To sum up: Close to the best in high school basketball, almost the worst in education. The St. Louis PSS has it all backwards.

posted by BoKnows at 06:20 PM on February 18

NOTE: In case my link to the school rankings comes up as the elementary school list, just change the search criteria ti "High Schools".

posted by BoKnows at 08:40 AM on February 19

A "math prodigy" would be a welcome addition to that district. Thanks for making my point on this one. So, after high school, they would end up with what? A 1% chance of going pro? They didn't get a quality education. That's what high school is about, not basketball. Well duh, but as far as the kids sake goes, they got to live in a nice place for a few years, they got a chance to shine in athletics at a high profile school, and whos to say they would have gotten a better education in their home district. I will not argue that the sad state of the schools academic record isn't pathetic. I was mere commenting on the sports aspect of the article. The public school system is a wreck, and it will only get worse until it falls apart completely. The main point I guess is that as long as sports make public schools (including universities) money, the emphasis on those sports will almost always supercede educational concerns for the students, especially the student-athelete. But, I don't see any harm from helping an athelete as a mentor. The only way I can see to truly help these kids would be a "trade" school in every district for students focusing on athletics. Much like a "construction trades curriculum". They could expose students to all of the aspecsts of athletics from physical training, recovery, sports broadcasting and reporting, and so on. This could give an opportunity for these kids to find a career to love outside of playing. And maybe even encourage them to expand their focus beyond sports.

posted by Hannibal at 02:02 PM on February 19

But, I don't see any harm from helping an athelete as a mentor. I agree with this halfway. I think the role of a mentor can be an exceptional experience for both parties. But Floyd Irons was not just a mentor. He was a successful inner-city high school basketball coach that recruited players that would help him win. He violated district rules by "recruiting" the players, then he put the players up in an apartment that is closer to being described as "the projects" than as you say "a nice place", and paid the rent. (I'm very familiar with this location, I grew up near here and still live only a few miles from the North City of St. Louis.) Who knows what else is involved. Now, the two players are under scrutiny by colleges that are questioning their eligibility. Article here. They are facing a possible ban from college basketball altogether. To me, it seems Floyd Irons may have done these kids more harm than good. Here's another interesting article that questions the integrity of both Vashon High School and Floyd Irons entire career at the school. This is not the type of mentor I would want. And maybe even encourage them to expand their focus beyond sports. For me, that is the job of a high school, preparing students for the "real life" that comes after graduation. The fact that Vashon High School has spent 40 million dollars on a new campus just 5 years ago and, now academically, is in the bottom four in the state, is sickening.

posted by BoKnows at 04:00 PM on February 19

High-Schoolers should not be paid to go to school under any circumstance. First off, thanks for a great discussion. Second, I got paid to go to high school and college: I received academic scholarships that discounted my cost versus those students there on a full boat. Any school with a tuition that offers scholarships or similar "payments" is doing so in order to attract the kind of quality students that will make their school attractive to all students. Not that that justifies some coach floating two kids to make his basketball team better if he didn't bother to make sure they got an education as well.

posted by yerfatma at 04:11 PM on February 19

Any school with a tuition that offers scholarships or similar "payments" is doing so in order to attract the kind of quality students that will make their school attractive to all students Agreed. And well said. My statement that you are referring to was not well said, so I'd like to amend it a little. High Schoolers should not be paid to go to school under any circumstance, unless receiving an academic scholarship.

posted by BoKnows at 04:24 PM on February 19

No matter what anyone says, Mr. Irons was in coaching for Mr. Irons -- not for the kids. If he was so concerned about the young men in his program, he would have put a team on the court from the players at his school and used the money he spent on players from other school districts, for tutors and other educational assistance for the deserving players that were legitimate students at Vashon. He could have had a very positive affect on those actually attending school to learn and to play basketball -- the basis for student-athletes. Note: the word student comes first and the athlete is secondary. There is only one reason Mr. Irons spent the money on players from other school districts and it wasn't to help out a few young men who had a bad home life -- the reason was Mr. Irons' own ego.

posted by stlalum at 04:52 PM on February 19

High Schoolers should not be paid to go to school under any circumstance, unless receiving an academic scholarship. But then you've opened the door to Hannibal's very point: what is the fundamental difference between using academics and athletics to make a school more attractive?

posted by yerfatma at 05:25 PM on February 19

what is the fundamental difference between using academics and athletics to make a school more attractive? I never contested that an academic scholarship should be given with the purpose of making a school more attractive. You brought that concept to the discussion. My idea was that an academic scholarship could be given to benefit a student, not the school. What Floyd Irons did benefited the school and himself. And it benefited the kids until now. Do you honestly think that we should single out kids, one by one, and train them according to their abilities while in high school? I don't, I think every person should receive the same level of education based on math, science, english, history and economics. Those are the tools that will stick with them during their entire lives. Sports are an extracurricular activity, they should be rank below education. In fact, when I was in high school, I had to maintain a certain GPA just to have to chance to play sports at all. The chance at succeeding in life with a full body of education is much better than the chance of making it as a professional athlete.

posted by BoKnows at 06:08 PM on February 19

There is no door. Mr. Irons wasn't interested in the welfare of the players, only of how well his basketball team did. As you also indicated, academics is the primary function of the school system -- athletics should be a privelege extended to students in good standing and making significant progress toward a diploma. When players can't get into college because of a lack of basic education, it is the fault of the educational system and when these student/athletes continually fail to meet standards why isn't the coach, who not only played them, but may have put pressure on teachers to provide passing grades, held accountable? As stated previously, Mr. Irons doesn't care about students -- only athletes that can promote his agenda, which is him.

posted by stlalum at 06:11 PM on February 19

Mr. Irons doesn't care about students -- only athletes that can promote his agenda, which is him. I don't know Mr. Irons motives for what he did, and frankly niether do you. Perhaps it's a little bit of both. Maybe he though he was trying to help the kids and himself, however he should be punished for breaking the rules and possibly ruining the careers of the players.

posted by Nakeman at 06:34 PM on February 19

The chance at succeeding in life with a full body of education is much better than the chance of making it as a professional athlete. Bo, I agree with the fundamental points that you are making about education, its importance, and the priority of academia over extra-curricular activies. The statement you made above is a fact. These student atheletes should be shown the statistical improbability of "going Pro". I guess it would be best to take my point out of the current context involving this coach, school, and students. I find no problem with coaches, schools, alumni, etc... acting as mentors, even if it requires financial support to the students, and in fact believe that it could be a valuable tool for everyone involved. The main problem I see is that the current rules force the issue into the "back room" and this is where the majority of the problems arise.

posted by Hannibal at 08:08 AM on February 20

Hannibal, The article that is linked as the thread subject is probably the most non-biased article I have ever read regarding both Floyd Irons and Vashon High School. I posted it in order to hear/read view points based on that article alone. It was not my intention to include all the history associated with the school/Irons. However, as I read the first couple of posts, I felt more background was needed in order to create a better understanding of character. Admittedly, my proximity to the story is probably the reason for my aggressive stance on education. I currently pay $4000.00 to a private school for my child (she's in Kindergarten), because I cannot trust the St. Louis Public Schools to properly educate it's students. (Even in the wake of a 40 million dollar campus.) In a legit situation, I also see no problem with coaches, schools, alumni, etc.. acting as mentors, that could be great thing. My contention was simply that this was not a legit situation. (Offers friendly handshake.)

posted by BoKnows at 10:25 AM on February 20

Bo, I guess that is what kind of threw me off, the article didn't seem to paint too much of a negative light on the guy. It is great that you are taking the initiative to try to ensure your childs success. I am lucky enough to live in a pretty decent rural school district that has not been too corrupted yet. (accepts)

posted by Hannibal at 10:58 AM on February 20

Here's something to think about: how many people would be upset about Vashon's academic standing if it weren't in the news for its basketball team? I taught for two years at an elementary school a few blocks from Vashon. My girlfriend taught for a year at Vashon and year at its freshman center, the year that was created. We were at the game when they won the championship in 2006. I listened to the rich, white parents of the losing team boo the kids from the hood as they celebrated their win. I've met Floyd Irons. His $90K salary wasn't just for coaching basketball. He was also the district's athletic director. $90K is not an outrageous salary for an experienced, top-tier administrator of a large school district. I have incredibly conflicted feelings about this whole thing. I guess I won't go into my typical educational equality screed here on SportsFi. But I think it's important to note that both of the Hills graduated from high school. That, in itself, is a significant accomplishment in that community. They're in college. Kids from St. Louis (I don't know anything about Alton) don't go to college unless one or more adults takes an active interest is helping them get there. Floyd Irons appears to have done that for these boys. I think he did a lot of sketchy things in his years at Vashon, but there's no arguing with the fact that many kids got opportunities they would otherwise not have gotten thanks to his successful basketball program. Also, pointing at Vashon's low academic standing and implying that it therefore shouldn't have a successful basketball program seems wrongheaded. That school needs all the success it can possibly find, from anywhere it can find it (it certainly did not find it in its PhatLobley-coached soccer team, but that's a story for another day). Who is to blame for the poor academic standing? What can we do about it? Quitting while I'm ahead.

posted by PhatLobley at 07:00 PM on February 21

Here's something to think about: how many people would be upset about Vashon's academic standing if it weren't in the news for its basketball team? One here. My girlfriend taught for a year at Vashon and year at its freshman center, the year that was created. My understanding was that the Freshman center was created in order to enhance the learning environment for the entire freshman class. Also, the seniors that were projected to graduate, were moved to college programs off campus. University of Missouri Saint Louis and Ranken Technical college are involved as well. All of which I think is great and will ultimately benefit the student's future and then the school's rank. The problem I have is, these changes were put in place just a few years after building the 40 million dollar campus. And it left the "new" campus at 50-60% capacity. And since, the superintendent who made these changes has been removed by the schoolboard after an audit. I am not convinced that education was on the top of the list when the new campus was built. I think he did a lot of sketchy things in his years at Vashon, but there's no arguing with the fact that many kids got opportunities they would otherwise not have gotten thanks to his successful basketball program. Agreed. But the oppurtunities should be available for the kids in the district. Maybe there were two young men in the district that should've been on that basketball team, but the roster was full because Floyd Irons pulled in the Hills' from out of state. Also, pointing at Vashon's low academic standing and implying that it therefore shouldn't have a successful basketball program seems wrongheaded. If you feel that's what is implied, let me rephrase my take on this. If the school in question is a privately-funded operation, and they want to run their academics into the ground, but produce the greatest shotput team in the state, fine, do it. Why? Because parents have the choice to send or not send their kids to that school. But when the school is a city, state, and tax dollar funded public high school, the primary goal should be on education, or the only kids that will have a future will be the ones with superior athletic ability. Why? Because that area of Saint Louis is primarily low-income households, those parents do not have the option to pick a private school that meets their child's needs. They need to rely on the Saint Louis School Board to provide the best possible level of education to their kids.

posted by BoKnows at 08:46 PM on February 21

Please don't take anything I said to imply support for SLPS management. That district is a god-awful mess and it is going to take years to get it on the right track. I'm not sure that the either/ or focus on athletics vs. academics is as zero-sum as you describe. The basketball team had a contract with Nike and brings in a lot of money from admissions and playing in tournaments. I agree that SLPS's focus should be on academics- it's a school district for crying out loud- but I'm not sure that all of their sports teams need to be as bad as my soccer team was (we didn't even have practices!) in order to do that. I can definitely understand how superfluous and extravagant basketball at the V seems, but I guess I saw the good things it did for the boys on the team. Irons might have been personally corrupt in a lot of ways, but the kids on the team (at least the ones that talked to my girlfriend about it) walked the straight and narrow because they knew Irons wouldn't tolerate them doing otherwise. I don't know for sure if the basketball team was a net loss or gain for the district academically, but my perspective walking in here was from the point of view of the players it helped personally. It was also cool to see the community rallied around the school to some extent. It's not like middle-class America where that's your natural and passionate entity to pledge allegiance first. If I wasn't so passionate about Detroit, I'd look forward to returning to StL to fix its schools someday. BoKnows, I'll leave it up to you!

posted by PhatLobley at 05:27 PM on February 23

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