Running Up the Score


A few weeks ago we came across this story about a Wisconsin man who worked as the announcer at a football game between two unevenly matched teams. At half-time one team was up 42-8 so the coach on the winning team didn’t play his starters after halftime. The second-string scored another touchdown two plays after taking the second half-kick off, and then the third sting played the rest of the game, ending in a 56-8 victory. The opposing coach told the announcer he was glad the other team was “respectful.”

Apparently, “the WIAA has already come up with ways to keep scores from becoming lopsided.Running Up the Score Football has a running-clock rule: after halftime, if one team is leading by more than 40-points the clock runs continuously – bringing the game to a much faster end. In addition, the WIAA urges coaches to show sportsmanship by not passing, not blitzing, and not running trick plays.” The goal of these rules is to prevent one team from running up the score to an absurdly high level. It is one thing to win (and win by a lot), but it’s another thing to rub the other team’s face in it. While the announcer agreed that he’s not a fan of lopsided scores, he feels these rules actually hurt the second and third-string players.

When a game is lopsided, that’s a rare chance for second- and third-string players to get playing time. These are kids who practices just as hard as the starters but don’t get nearly as many opportunities to play. So when they do get into the game, it stinks when they’re told to hold back and not try to score. And it stinks when the clock runs continuously and gives these kids half-as-many plays as they’d otherwise get. I believe athletes should always be told to do their best. Intentionally underperforming – not trying to score or advance the ball – also shows poor sportsmanship. You show respect for your opponent by putting forth your best effort all times. If I was playing on a losing team, there’d be nothing more insulting or demoralizing than realizing that the other team was no longer trying.

Meanwhile, in Texas parents are suing a football coach after his team won 150-0. The coach says once he realized the game was going to be a blow-out he played and second and third-string players. The clock was also run continuously starting in the third quarter. In his defense, the coach argued,

I’m not gonna tell a kid that comes out here and practices six to seven hours a week trying to get ready for football games ‘Hey, you can’t score a touchdown if you get in, you’re gonna have to take a knee,’ cause that may be the only touchdown that kid gets to score in his high school career…

Both the football announcer and the coach make a great point about running up the score. Neither team was intentionally trying to blow their opponent out of the water, and even with third-string players on the field (which in theory is supposed to help even out the competition level) their teams were just on a roll. Everything that could be done, short of telling the players to take a knee on each play, was in place to try to level the playing field.

Should the coaches of the dominating teams have directed their players to intentionally not play? Would that actually be more unsportsmanlike and disrespectful to the other team? We at SportsSignup believe that youth sports should be about teaching kids how to be good winner and good losers, and while no one likes to get blown out of the water sometimes when you lose you lose hard. It’s not unreasonable to assume that many players would get even more offended at a team that just stopped trying, almost as if to say “you’re not worthy of our time.”

Maybe you disagree—maybe the coaches should have tried harder to not run up the score. If that’s your opinion than what suggestions do you have for a coach that finds themselves in a similar situation?