A Sibling Rivalry Turned Ridiculous

Posted by on Oct 19, 2012 in Uncategorized | 1,070 comments

[To listen to the audio version, click here: Huron-Pioneer 10-12]

Last week, the Ann Arbor Pioneer High School football team went across town to play long-time rival Ann Arbor Huron.  It wasn’t the players’ performance during the game that made news, however, but the coaches’ behavior afterward.  And the news wasn’t good.

Pioneer came into the annual rivalry with Huron sporting a solid 4-3 record and a good chance to make the playoffs.  Huron hadn’t won a game all year, and was simply playing out the season.  The only stakes were bragging rights – and even those weren’t much in question.

With a minute left, Pioneer enjoyed an impressive 35-6 lead.  At that point, it’s customary for the winning coach to tell his team to run out the clock by taking a knee, instead of trying to score again.  But Pioneer threw a pass, and then another, and then another – one of them to the endzone  – in a clear display of poor sportsmanship.  That was the night’s first mistake.

This made Huron head coach Cory Gildersleeve apoplectic.  He yelled across the field to Pioneer head coach Paul Test to knock it off.  That was the second mistake made by the men that night.  If your team is getting crushed, and you’re the head coach, you don’t worry about the other guys.  You get your team to the locker room, and start working to get better.

When the game ended the players had no problem shaking hands, and saying, Good luck.  But not the head coaches.  At mid-field, Gildersleeve started pointing his finger and yelling at Paul Test – a coach I’ve known and admired for years.  Test told Gildersleeve he didn’t call those pass plays – and that was the third mistake.  That answer simply doesn’t fly.  When you’re the head coach, you’re responsible for everything that your coaches and players do – and that certainly includes the plays your staff calls.

It turns out Test has a history of running up the score, and leaving bad feelings behind.  Just ask Dexter, which Pioneer beat 69-0 this year.  After the game, Pioneer’s players put one of their assistant coaches — who had been released as Dexter’s head coach, but still teaches there — on their shoulders, and marched him right in front of the Dexter bench, as if to ask, “How do ya like me now?” Dexter’s answer: Not very much, thank you.  But no fights broke out.

The Huron-Pioneer game probably would’ve ended the same way — with some hard feelings, but nothing more – until an unnamed Pioneer assistant coach saw the two head coaches arguing, broke from the handshake line and ran up to Huron’s head coach.  It’s not clear whether he pushed Gildersleeve or punched him, but there’s no question he made contact.  A Pioneer player pulled his coach away, but the coach jumped right back in – and just like that, a bench-clearing brawl broke out.  Call those mistakes four and five.

That’s the bad news.  The good news is just about everything that followed. No students rushed the field.  The players, with only a few exceptions, tried to break things up.  The schools’ athletic directors – both women – bravely jumped into the middle and helped end the melee.  Since then, everybody’s apologized, and both teams’ captains have met to mend the fences.

Both head coaches received two game suspensions – one from the state, and one from the district.  A few players will also be suspended for the next game – which, for the Pioneers, could be costly, as they push for the playoffs.  Perhaps most important, the offending Pioneer assistant coach, who seems to have absolutely no idea what high school sports are supposed to teach, has been fired.  Good.

But when I take a step back, I’m struck most by who started it, and who ended it.  I can only hope that the men who run these teams start acting more like the women who supervise them and the teenagers who play for them.

On Friday night, it was women and children first.  The men finished last.

* * * * *

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8 Responses to “A Sibling Rivalry Turned Ridiculous”

  1. pat greeley says:

    thank goodness my kids go to Skyline, no rivalries there!

  2. Bradley Pritts says:

    As much as I would love to see Huron beat down on pioneer in every sport every year it needs to remain civil. My sophomore year on the jv football team ended in a brawl against pioneer too. One pioneer player actually took off his helmet and started swinging it around like a club. Further my teammate was thrown to the ground by a pioneer assistant coach. Head coaches need to be held responsible for the actions of their players and their coaching staff. And there is no need to elevate an already volatile situation by running up the score when the victory formation would have sufficed. If coach Test had been in control of his team and done that this whole episode could have been avoided in my opinion. The coaches need to be held responsible for the whole affair.

  3. Toby Aldrich says:

    Nice.

  4. Not the rivalry I thought I’d be reading about!

  5. Since MHSAA rules were relaxed that first “required,” then later “recomended” head coaches be staff members, educational athletics have experienced increased lack of direction based on the tenets of sound TEACHING.
    I contend the best coaches are teachers. The quest for football playoff appearances may also be a contributor to poor behavior by coaches, even though scores are not part of the qualification formula.

    • Doug Hill says:

      Bill,
      I couldn’t agree more. As the leader of my teacher’s association in Rochester we too had a similar incident a few weeks back with a coach who is not a staff teacher. The outsourcing of coaches — much like the outsourcing of many other positions in education — does not enhance the finished product, which of course are children.

      Doug

  6. Ever since Ann Arbor HS separated into Huron and Pioneer there has been a friendly rivalry. We compete for bragging rights and townie recognition, in pretty much every sport and activity. But, the kids KNOW that it’s just a friendly rivalry, nothing to get riled up about. You win, you lose, then you go home and study for the next test or class project. Pioneer is going to win certain sports most of the time and Huron wins others; that’s just how it goes.

    It’s telling that it’s the coaches, who certainly should know better, who lose their cool and caused the brawl. The Pioneer HC has no idea of proper sportsmanship (Test has had a lot of past issues regarding winning/losing badly), the Huron coach was overly concerned with how an opposing coach was acting (and, maybe, embarassed how “his” team looked), and the Pioneer asst coach lost his damned mind.
    Kids will do what their coaches do or tell them to do, they are not blameless (especially the crutch-swinger), but their just kids. It’s a blot on both our houses and a pointless, crying shame.

    • Ever since Ann Arbor HS separated into Huron and Pioneer there has been a friendly rivalry. We compete for bragging rights and townie recognition, in pretty much every sport and activity. But, the kids KNOW that it’s just a friendly rivalry, nothing to get riled up about. You win, you lose, then you go home and study for the next test or class project. Pioneer is going to win certain sports most of the time and Huron wins others; that’s just how it goes.

      It’s telling that it’s the coaches, who certainly should know better, who lose their cool and caused the brawl. The Pioneer HC has no idea of proper sportsmanship (Test has had a lot of past issues regarding winning/losing badly), the Huron coach was overly concerned with how an opposing coach was acting (and, maybe, embarassed how “his” team looked), and the Pioneer asst coach lost his damned mind.
      Kids will do what their coaches do or tell them to do, they are not blameless (especially the crutch-swinger), but they’re just kids. It’s a blot on both our houses and a pointless, crying shame.

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