Varsity Letter

Varsity Letter: Principal teaches football team wrong lesson

By Preston Williams
Thursday, November 5, 2009

Prince George's County public schools' motto is "Children Come First," a claim prominently displayed on letterhead and on the school system's Web site.

Last week, the county should have added an asterisk with a disclaimer: "Although not necessarily at Crossland High School."

Did you hear? Crossland Principal Charles Thomas canceled the remainder of the football season -- two varsity games and two junior varsity games -- because of what a county news release called "unsportsmanlike conduct during and after games."

The baby-with-the-bathwater move infuriated many players and parents and robbed about 70 boys of two weeks of after-school activities. Instead of allowing the suspensions of four players and the expulsion of a fifth to serve as punishment for a game-halting on-field incident against Potomac (Md.) on Oct. 24, Thomas shut down the program and fired the assistant coaches. Eric Knight resigned as head coach but remains the school's athletic director.

In making such a shortsighted decision, Thomas gave his students an example of how not to deal with adversity and turned his back on two weeks of teachable moments that the additional practice time and game experience could have afforded.

Why not keep the team together and make the coaches spend half of each remaining practice session discussing sportsmanship, with an open invitation for the principal to share his insights?

Coincidentally, the news release makes reference to introducing a "character development component into the sports program" at Crossland. Well, Thomas missed a perfect place to start.

Thomas's actions did, however, inadvertently result in a valuable math lesson: 70 players x 2 weeks of missed practices and games and study halls = more than 2,000 idle after-school hours. Anybody crazy about those prospects, not just at Crossland but at any high school in the Washington area?

Several Crossland players said team members cried when Thomas broke the news to them last Wednesday that the season was over.

"It was heartbreaking for me," senior wide receiver-defensive back Delante White said.

"I believe they could have sat down with us, [told] us fighting is not involved in football and it shouldn't be tolerated," senior wide receiver-defensive back Malcolm Green said. "Now we don't have football anymore. What do we have? They took it from us."

There was collateral damage. The first canceled game was at Largo -- the Lions' homecoming. Largo held a homecoming pep rally but had no homecoming game, and the athletic department could not pocket the estimated $1,500 to $3,500 that it would have earned from concession sales that night.

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