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This is a story that illustrates all too clearly that life is complicated, and moral issues are not always as black and white as some might find comfortable.  Full disclosure:  I must admit to a lack of fondness for high school athletics.  I was a high school athlete and enjoyed the experience, for the most part.  I recognize the value that athletics has and the values it can teach.  But I chafe–at best–at the undue emphasis and time and resources given to athletics, particularly football, obviously the most expensive sport.  I have also had the unfortunate experience of finding too many coaches to be indifferent teachers.

Credit: AP/Colin E Braley

Credit: AP/Colin E Braley

On one hand, I know much of this is not the fault of coaches.  They’re coaches primarily because they want to coach, not teach.  They teach because they have to.  I know there are exceptions, and I know many of them.  Good men and women all, and dedicated and capable teachers.  But I think we’d all be better off if coaches did nothing but coach.  Why maintain the pretense?  Why put people in the classroom that don’t want to be there, don’t do well when they are, and are gone much of the time?  Hire them to coach and let them have at it.

Thus endeth the disclosure.

In this case, I find myself more or less on the side of the coach from a school not too far from mine.  See what you think: 

The coach of a Texas high school football team has been accused of bullying in a formal complaint after his team beat another school 91-0.

MyFoxDFW.com reports a parent of a player on the Western Hills High School football team claims Aledo High School football coach Tim Buchanan encouraged his players to bully their opponents by running up the score. Buchanan learned of the online complaint against him Saturday, the day after his team beat Western Hills in a 4A matchup.

ESPN (which has an audio interview with Buchanan) added:

[The report filed] compliments our players, saying they showed extremely good sportsmanship,”’ Buchanan said Tuesday morning. “This was not directed at our team, but the coaching staff for not instructing our players to ease up and quit playing hard once the game was in hand.”

Western Hills coach John Naylor, whose team dropped to 0-7, didn’t have any issues with how Buchanan and his staff handled the game, telling the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the athletes played hard and didn’t ‘talk at all.’

‘They’re No. 1 for a reason, and I know Coach Buchanan,’ Naylor told the newspaper. ‘We’re fighting a real uphill battle right now.’

Undefeated Aledo, No. 1 in the Associated Press Class 4A state poll (the second-highest classification in the state), is racking up ridiculous yardage and crushing opponents this season. They are averaging just shy of 70 points per game, making some of those games essentially over before halftime.

In fact, at the half Friday, it was 56-0 and Buchanan and his coaching staff spent the intermission trying to figure out how to tap the offensive brakes without embarrassing Western Hills or hindering his own team’s progress. Buchanan had one thought: ‘What are we going to do to not score 100?’

But he was also balancing that with the fact that his team is going to start facing tougher competition in the coming weeks and he wants to be sure his starters are used to playing at least some in the second half.

Buchanan simplified the playbook. He put in the second- and third-team offensive line and got the backups as much time as he could, while still playing a few starters here and there at the beginning of the third quarter. He told his punt returner to fair-catch the ball. All told, his offense had 32 snaps. His starters began coming out in the third quarter, some of them having played just 16 snaps, Buchanan said. The Bearcats rushed for 391 yards with eight touchdowns.

Buchanan said his starting running back touched the ball six times and scored four touchdowns. His backup kept finding holes as well, even without the starting offensive line in the game.

‘I can’t tell the backups not to play hard,’ Buchanan said. ‘They’ve worked their tails off all week. They’ve lifted weights in the offseason. I’m not going to tell them not to play.’

But he did whatever he could to try to slow down his offense short of taking a knee in the third quarter.

The result was another easy win, but also some time in the principal’s office after the report was filed.

It’s hard to see what Buchanan could have done differently.  This is not exactly an unusual story in Texas High school football.  There are always dominant teams, teams that really dominate, middling teams, and teams that might win a single game each season–if they’re lucky.  It’s not uncommon for such teams to stare in dismay as the opposing team gets off the bus looking  for all the world like NFL starters.  There is a huge difference between a team ranked #1 and an average team.  In virtually every way that matters, they’re essentially different species, Klingons playing Ferengi.

Perhaps Buchanan could have taken a time out and conferred with the opposing coach, giving him a chance to call the game, but that would have been potentially too embarrassing.

But bullying?!  I’ve always been impressed, gentle readers, by your moral sense.  What do you think?

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