Mercy Rule Mania


School district weighs in on view of ‘lopsided score’ mandate


Plainedge has been the center of the ‘lopsided rule’ controversy since their head coach got suspended.
(Photo source: Google Maps)

Plainedge High School football head coach Rob Shaver was recently given a one-game suspension for violating a Nassau County sportsmanship rule created to discourage teams from running up the score against their opponents. While the outcry over the application of this rule has stirred up a national outcry thanks to the story going viral, a number of neighboring school districts have chosen to remain mum on the subject. The Massapequa School District did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.
Shaver’s penalty came as a result of the Red Devils prevailing over previously unbeaten South Side by a score of 61-13. The rule mandates that the coach of a team that wins by more than 42 points must submit in writing the lengths to which they went to avoid running up the score. If the committee that issued this rule determines the coach acted appropriately, there is no suspension. Shaver submitted his explanation to an assembly formed by Nassau County’s governing body of athletics, which was followed up by an appearance in front of this six-person committee to defend his decision in person. With both teams coming in undefeated, Shaver explained his concern about South Side potentially coming back to win the game. To that end, Shaver’s starters left the game after the second play of the fourth quarter—a 37-yard touchdown run by the Red Devil quarterback that made the score 55-13.

“If we put our backups in and [the Cyclones] score, then there’s 10 minutes left, and they score again and now there’s eight minutes left and they score again and there’s six minutes left,” he said. “Now I’ve got to take my starters and put them back in the game because we’re only up by 14.”

Matt McLees, the football chairman in Nassau and one of the committee’s members, said the committee decided Shaver had not responded quickly enough and unanimously voted to give him a one-game suspension.
“By leaving the starters in the game in the fourth quarter, was the head coach demonstrating that he’s trying to avoid a lopsided score?” McLees said. “That’s the question the committee had and we didn’t get an answer to that.”

Ironically, South Side coach Phil Onesto saw nothing wrong with how Shaver handled the win.
“I had no issue with how the game went. I had spoken with coach Shaver, I told him I had no issues,” Onesto said.

The “lopsided score” rule currently applies to games decided by more than 42 points. There was only one game decided by more than 40 points in 2018.

The rule was initially instituted in 2017 for games decided by more than 40 points. That year, five games were decided by more than that amount, 13 less than the year before. The following year, the rule was changed to make it games decided by more than 42 points (a multiple of seven). There was only one game decided by more than 40 points in 2018. In both 2017 and 2018, no suspensions were issued. This year, four games have been decided by more than 40 points with Shaver being the first and only coach to receive this suspension.

Shaver’s boss, Plainedge Public Schools Superintendent Edward Salinas Jr., was frustrated by the suspension, according to a statement he released in which he called the committee a “kangaroo court,” and asked, “What are you teaching children by saying, ‘Play fairly, but now you are playing too well, don’t play anymore for the rest of the game?’ Where are the life lessons?”

Suffolk County has no rule addressing the final score of games. In an interview with local high school sports columnist Gregg Sarra, Suffolk County Football Coaches Association President Hans Weiderkehr stated it winds up being quite a bit of bureaucratic overreach.
“It’s absolutely embarrassing to the football coaches and administrators in Nassau that they don’t trust the process and try to control the outcome of the games,” Weiderkehr said. “They’ve taken the authority away from the athletic directors of the schools. That’s their job when a coach is unsportsmanlike—not some rule. They needed to create a committee to suspend a coach who is in good standing with everybody on Long Island? What a sham.”

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In addition to being editor of Hicksville News and Massapequa Observer, Dave Gil de Rubio is a regular contributor to Long Island Weekly, specializing in music and sports features. He has won several awards for writing from Press Club of Long Island (PCLI).

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