A high school football coach bullies the marching band and dishonors his sport

Petula Dvorak
Columnist November 14, 2013

Maybe Coach Scott didn’t get the memo that in 2013, nerds are cool and geeks rule.

It seems that Michael Scott, the Annandale High School football coach who allegedly kicked his school’s marching band off the field to make room for his players at halftime, is in some kind of 1953 time warp, where the tough coach gives the kid with glasses a wedgie and they all meet for a rumble behind the gym after the game.

Petula is a columnist for The Washington Post's local team who writes about homeless shelters, gun control, high heels, high school choirs, the politics of parenting, jails, abortion clinics, mayors, modern families, strip clubs and gas prices, among other things. View Archive

That’s not cool today, coach. In 2013, most people understand that jocks aren’t the only ones who work hard. High school marching bands are out there practicing in the heat, the rain and the cold. Their skills are endurance, discipline, dedication and art.

You don’t disrespect the band, especially on a night when it is recognizing the contributions of its seniors.

On Thursday, Annandale Principal Vincent Randazzo sent a letter to furious parents promising that Coach Scott will apologize to the band. “What happened shouldn’t have happened and I regret that it has tarnished what should have been a night of celebration for our seniors,” Randazzo said in the letter.

The ugliness took place last Friday as the football team was wrapping up the season and the marching band was recognizing its seniors. The coach ordered the musicians, drum major and band director to get off the field well before the halftime clock had reached zero.

This is called bullying. And that’s just not fashionable anymore, coach.

Richie Incognito, meet Coach Scott. Y’all may understand each other.

The marching band confrontation was reported in the school paper, the Atom Blast, in a nuclear bomb of an op-ed column by students Megan Ryan and James Barker.

“Get the damn band off the field!” was what Ryan and Barker heard the football parents yelling as the clock showed 41 / 2 minutes left of halftime in the game against South County.

The coach had brought the players back on the field to warm up. And they were getting closer and closer to the drum line until they nearly collided.

As the band belted out its “Music of the Night” show, the coaches decided to cut things short.

“Coach Scott resorted to his own measures by shaking the podium of junior Assistant Drum Major Douglas Nguyen, and then yelling at the other Assistant Drum Major, senior Noah Wolfenstein, to stop conducting and get off the field,” the school paper reported.

The comments sections on the school newspaper’s Web site went wild, with parents calling for the coach’s resignation.

And who could blame them? I checked the faculty roster; surprisingly, Coach Scott is not teaching Caveman 101 in the off-season.

The coach, the principal and others did not return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment Thursday.

But Fairfax schools spokesman John Torre told The Washington Post’s T. Rees Shapiro that “Principal Randazzo is extremely concerned with how this situation was handled. He is following up with all of the parties involved and will take whatever appropriate action is deemed necessary.”

The battles between the arts and sports have been legion in American high schools, especially when money is tight and tough choices are made. Participation in high school football is declining across the country, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Looks like the coaches at Annandale want to help speed that demise.

The team lost, 55-14, the grand finale of a 1-9 season.

The band?

This month, the Marching Atoms swept the USBands Mid-Atlantic States Championships. They performed at the biggest event in the band’s history — going head to head with bands from all over the East Coast at the U.S. Naval Academy and snatching first-place awards at every level.

The hooliganism of football is finally being scrutinized by America. The long-term damage to players’ bodies and brains, the bounty paid by some teams for brutal hits, the awful behavior by Incognito in bullying a teammate in the Miami Dolphins locker room — all of it feels like we’ve finally turned the light on in a dark and cluttered room.

Football can actually be a beautiful game. I’m learning this every weekend as I watch my husband coach the local touch-football team and my sons flourish in the glow of athletic accomplishment. The game — as played in its pure form — isn’t really the problem. It’s the culture that so often surrounds it.

The band practices as long and hard as the football team does. Maybe harder. The musicians stand by the team and cheer and play through all the losses.

How much do you want to bet that Coach Scott didn’t bring the entire football team to Annapolis to cheer the band on during its stunning win?

Minimizing the band members’ efforts in any way — especially when they were in the middle of their halftime show and totally entitled to the field — is leadership at its worst.

And really, coach, football doesn’t need your kind of help these days.

To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/dvorak.

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