Is Running Up the Score Cause for a Fine?

2015-01-20T17:01:01-05:00Coaching, Sports Management|

Just the other week a story ran about a Southern California high school basketball coach that was suspended and faces accusations of “mercilessly running up the score” after his team won a game 161-2, making it one of the most lopsided basketball scores in the state history.

Anderson said that he wasn’t trying to run up the score or embarrass the opposition. His team had won four previous games by at least 70 points, and Bloomington had already lost a game by 91.

The Bloomington team has apparently struggled all season. The team has a 0-9 league record right now, and the coach mentioned he has only one player with experience. Their best scoring output on the season is 17 points, and the team has been blown out in each of its losses this year. On the flip side, the Arroyo Valley girls’ basketball team has been outscoring their opponents by 56 points per game.describe the image

“The game just got away from me,” Anderson told the San Bernardino Sun on Friday. “I didn’t play any starters in the second half. I didn’t expect them to be that bad. I’m not trying to embarrass anybody.”

He says if he had it to do again, he’d have played only reserves after the first quarter, or, “I wouldn’t play the game at all.”

Parents on Anderson’s team disagree with the ruling. “I feel it’s very wrong. I felt like, what are you teaching these kids? To lose and not be rewarded,” parent Martha Vodinez told CBS Los Angeles. “Are you teaching them to be a loser?”

Apparently both coaches wanted to implement a running clock after halftime to help level the playing field, but high school rules do not allow a running clock until the fourth quarter. Because of the blowout, school administrators are trying to seek rule changes that would allow a “running clock” to go into effect at any point during the game when there’s a 40-point lead, instead of just the fourth quarter. Mercy rules are not uncommon in youth sports, especially at younger ages when skill discrepancy between teams can make for a very big difference on the scoreboard.

Coach Dave Jacobsen said that it’s important that youth sports leagues have a way to deal with one-sided games and that’s where the mercy rule comes into play. “There are very few life lessons to come out of a blowout game,” he said. “There are very few sporting lessons to come out of a blowout game. If you’re a kid who gets involved in too many blowout games, the game gets boring,” he said. “You may leave the game and quit sports altogether and miss out on life lessons.” However, Arlene Virga, the Executive Director of the Yorkville Youth Athletic Association, which serves over 5,000 children in New York City and has leagues in 12 different sports says that “The very statement ‘We’re mercying you’ is almost worse than getting beat by a lot.” A strict mercy rule doesn’t give young people enough credit, she said.

Late last year we came across a story about a PeeWee football team who suffered a $500 fine and an automatic one-week suspension for their coach when a young player’s first touchdown put the team over the 33 point league mercy rule.

Elijah’s mother, Brooke Burdett, maintains that her son had no idea he was breaking any rules when he scored his first peewee touchdown.

“We were all super excited, [Elijah] was beyond excited and we were fined for it,” Burdett told Paluska. “[Elijah] had no idea [he was breaking a rule]. This is his first year. This was his first touchdown. He is an eight-year-old boy making a pick-six…”

“How do I explain to an eight-year-old kid that your coach has been suspended because your teammate unintentionally scored?” Chando John, a mother of another Black Knights player asked. “It’s hard having an eight-year-old in flight to think of everything everybody has said, other than I need to make a touchdown.”

What do you think? Should coaches be punished for running up the score? Is it really that black and white or are their shades of grey that need to be accounted for?