H.D. Woodson girls' basketball runs up the score and raises question of sportsmanship

By Mike Wise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 7, 2010

So, I call up the coach of a local high school girls' basketball powerhouse last week to say "Happy National Sportsmanship Day!" This was Tuesday morning, after Frank Oliver's team won by a whisker, 86-1.

Just a quick bit on the radio show to give Oliver grief -- for the humiliation his H.D. Woodson girls handed McKinley Tech, which had only five players.

Of course, the coach of the five-time D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association champions (they beat Dunbar for No. 5 Saturday) played defense when we spoke, almost as well as his team zone presses.

But Oliver also gave compelling reasons why H.D. Woodson can hardly get a decent run in the DCIAA, later saying, "Hey, I can't duplicate myself across the city."

"Why should my girls get penalized if they work harder than everybody else?" he added. "Why can't we have qualified coaches here?"

Clearly influenced by media backlash, the next night the Warriors barely nipped Cardozo, 94-0.

Reading in The Post for several years about the inequity and abject apathy affecting many public-school programs in the District is one thing; being slapped upside the head by it is another.

Initial knee-jerk thought: What drives this insecure man who never fulfilled his own athletic dreams to prevent teenage girls he doesn't happen to coach from tasting the modest success of one measly field goal?

Second knee-jerk thought: Someone had to pay for H.D. Woodson's success. And if some of the girls from the three schools on the other end of a combined 269-6 score sour on athletic participation, can Oliver say with a straight face that it was all worth it, that he was doing God's work for a $1,900 coaching stipend?

For every girl Oliver is sending to college on a full-ride athletic scholarship, such as McDonald's all-American and Georgia-bound Ronika Ransford, how much dignity is siphoned from some other kid to pay for that education?

"While the DCIAA has no written rule on 'running up the score' we do expect our coaches to compete with integrity," said Marcus Ellis, the league's director of athletics, in an e-mailed response. "It's our goal to develop our student-athletes into better people on and off the court.

"This is an issue that will be strongly addressed as we proceed into our next season. As Director of Athletics for D.C. Public Schools, I do not condone, nor support this type of behavior."

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