100-0? Much ado about "nothing"

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Micah Grimes, the coach of The Covenant School's girls high school basketball team in Dallas, Texas, was fired on Sunday, Jan. 25 in the aftermath of the 100-0 drubbing of Dallas Academy.

Grimes was not a teacher at The Covenant School. In his fourth season as girls basketball coach, he had the team playing with the state's best after suffering a 2-19 season in his first year with the program. The Covenant School has an overall record of 6-3 this season but is undefeated in its district of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools.

Grimes, to his credit, is a basketball guru and a hired gun. He is involved with the Flight Basketball Academy of Irving, Texas, and works with highly motivated younger athletes and AAU teams. The Covenant School hired him to win basketball games and build its program. Mission accomplished, except for the glaring national spotlight that followed the 100-0 skunking of Dallas Academy.

This is not the first time in history that one team has embarrassed another with an astronomical score. Among other Custer-like endings, the record books show that Georgia Tech beat Cumberland 220-0 in college football. In 1992, in Kentucky, Jackson City High School gutted Lexington Woodbridge Academy 215-28.

In Missouri, Dixon High School's scoring machine team broke the century mark 11 times during the 1968-69 season, including a state record total of 172 against hapless Stoutland. In fact, three of those games were against Stoutland, with Dixon scoring comparatively benign totals of 102 and 135 to complete the domination.

In the 1990s, high school coaches with offensive juggernauts often scrambled to find new scoreboards that displayed triple digits, because seeing "02-77" just doesn't have the impact of "102-77." The crowds loved it, the kids loved it, and the coaches smiled when they were on the winning side. The team associated with the smaller number on the scoreboard used the woodshed memories to inspire them in games and seasons to come.

Before the installation of the mercy clock in Missouri, 100 points was a gold standard for offensive-minded basketball teams. To hit the century mark now, a team almost has to tow its opponent along in a less-than-30 point lead to keep the turbo clock from shortening offensive opportunity.

The only reason this 100-0 epic became a national disgrace is because Dallas Academy caters primarily to students with learning disabilities. So as soon as the box score hit the internet, the politically correct crowd didn't just get on the bandwagon to fire the coach, they cut the mules out of their traces and pulled the wagon themselves.

Closer inspection of the school and its student body suggests that while many students have ADHD and other learning disabilities, they are not mentally incompetent or unable to understand the rules and nature of the game of basketball. Dallas Academy reports on its website that "80 to 90 percent of DA's graduates attend two- or four-year colleges."

The fuse to the media time bomb was apparently lit by a disgruntled Dallas Academy parent, Renee Poloza, who contacted local news outlets. Kyle Queal, the Covenant administrator, then stoked the situation with his internet-ready quote, "a victory without honor is a great loss." This quickly led to a piece aired nationally on NBC, in which a reporter interviewed Dallas Academy Coach Jeremy Civello and some of the players.

In an unintentionally humorous video clip, the Academy players were filmed wearing their game uniforms in practice while the reporter listed game-related grievances in the background. Then one of the players looked into the camera and spoke, saying that the Academy girls "played for fun" instead of the reprehensible "playing to win."

Dallas Academy Coach Jeremy Civello, now in his fourth season at the school, remains winless in his gig. He didn't expect his girls to beat Covenant's powerhouse team and probably doesn't expect them to beat anyone else, either. He has emphasized his team's lack of ability by stating that most of his girls would never play at any other school in the state.

The media focused attention on Grimes for not using his reserves late in the game. Besides his five starters, Coach Grimes only had three girls on his bench, and all played. Obviously some starters had to be on the floor at all times. The entire roster is listed on the school's website, and includes one freshman, three sophomores, two juniors and two seniors.

Someone forgot to note that Covenant and Dallas Academy are approximately the same size and have comparable numbers of girls available for their athletic teams. The Covenant School lists its seventh through 12th grade enrollment at 134. Dallas Academy's site states that its enrollment for third through 12th grades runs between 140 and 145 students.

Forgotten in the uproar is the fact that DA's boys defeated Covenant, 50-38 right after the 100-0 blowout. The boys did not need politically correct sympathy as they celebrated their victory, and the obvious lesson is that Dallas Academy students are successful in some athletic endeavors. High school girls basketball is just not one of them this year.

Yes, Covenant ran up the score in the girls game. Yes, Dallas Academy failed to score in the game. Every athlete goes into a contest knowing they must give their best and expecting their opponent to do the same. If you stay involved in athletics long enough, you will eventually experience both ends of the frustration of a blowout.

It is more insulting to the losing team for the opponent to purposely and obviously hold back, than it is for them to take a drubbing from a team with superior talent and execution. At some point in the contest, players quit looking at the scoreboard and just play.

It should be noted that Dallas Academy lost 41-8 to Cambridge School of Dallas soon after the shutout. Not 100-0 but certainly not a highlight reel for Dallas Academy.

Coaches of strong programs hate these kinds of games with a passion. They bring to life the old adage, "darned if you do and darned if you don't." While few coaches adhere to the ruthless belief that if a team can be beaten 100-0, they should be beaten 100-0, there is still no set code of conduct for this type of contest.

Even bench players on the better programs can outshine the starters on many struggling teams. Do these back-ups not deserve a chance to execute the same offensive and defensive skills they hone every day in practice? It has always seemed to me that it is the job of the defense to keep the other team from scoring.

Pressure defense? Loyola-Marymount style offense? If that is what your team normally plays, by all means, play.

I doubt that Micah Grimes will be without a position for long. The guy can obviously coach, and a school that wants to develop a championship-caliber program might easily be persuaded by parents and boosters to overlook his insensitivity.

While we are visiting the subject of coaches, what of the Dallas Academy coach? Not a single win in four years, and the school has publicly stated its position that fun is more important than winning. Why not just institute an intramural program or let the kids play YMCA ball?

Sports fans in the Ozarks remember the losing streak that Exeter's boys struggled through. But there is no quit in the little Barry County town, as is evidenced by their ultra-successful girls team.

In Joplin, Thomas Jefferson's high school girls basketball team has only five players this season and finishes some games with less than five on the floor when a starter fouls out.

Cassville's state championship football program is not that many years removed from a futile season. Winning and talent run in cycles in high school sports, and in other areas of life as well. But you don't quit, and you ask no favors from your opponent.

Play hard, play fair, respect your sport and your opponent, and represent your team, school, family and community in a positive manner, and the score will take care of itself.

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