Saturday, July 03, 2010

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Pulaski Co. case not very clear cut

This week's Q&A-Mac is brought to you by The Offseason: An unfortunate casualty of the times, eager to resurface.

Q: So you agree with the VHSL's punishments of Pulaski County's football program then?

A: In principle, absolutely. Out-of-season, supervised practices in any sport need to be stopped.

Q: Why? So one team doesn't gain an advantage over its rivals?

A: Well, there's that, which is the VHSL's main concern. But my big problem with them is that high school kids deserve an offseason. They deserve the right to do other things, such as play another sport or get a job, without feeling like they're missing out or falling behind.

Q: What about kids who want to play football year round?

A: They still can. Call a few buddies and get a game going on your own. Every single sporting activity does not have to be rigidly organized.

Q: Weren't the penalties -- no postseason in 2010, a $1,000 fine, a ban on jamborees and scrimmages and an elimination of five practice dates this preseason -- a bit harsh?

A: You bet. Clearly, the VHSL wanted to send a message. And it did. I don't doubt that schools across the state are testing the boundaries of this rule, but they'll be more careful now.

Q: So you're in total agreement with the VHSL?

A: No, I didn't say that. If you're going to send a message, there ought to be a little more transparency in the message. The VHSL should release specifics. Executive director Ken Tilley saying that "more than once is probably accurate" when asked how often it happened is unnecessarily vague. Probably? Either it happened more than once or it didn't. Give us the evidence. Give us dates if you have them, a general time frame if you don't. Tell us the specific actions committed by coaches rather than ducking behind buzz words such as "blatant, egregious and flagrant."

There remains mass confusion in the coaching ranks about what's permissible and what's not. Use this incident to clear up some of that.

Q: So who's going to step up and take some real responsibility in Dublin?

A: That's a question you'd have to pose to the decision-makers at Pulaski. We've given them a chance. So far, former coach Jack Turner -- who initially denied any knowledge of violations -- has said it'd be "inappropriate" for him to comment publicly.

Principal Rod Reedy would only echo a bland statement by the Pulaski County superintendent of schools that they were "very disappointed" in the ruling and "are committed to moving forward."


If I'm a parent of a kid who sees his senior season gutted like this, I'd want some answers regarding how this could possibly happen.

Q: Michael Vick says he had no involvement with a shooting following his birthday celebration in Virginia Beach last week. Does anybody believe him?

A: Early results of a USA Today online poll showed that 64 percent of Americans think he's lying. Then again, 64 percent of Americans will spend weeknights watching marginal celebrities do the tango on TV. Vick's credibility issue is well-documented. Defend him at your own risk. I'm done defending him, but I'm not going to convict him of anything either, especially when the police hadn't labeled him as a suspect as of Friday.

Q: Tony Dungy says "the only thing [Vick is] guilty of is bad judgment." Why do otherwise intelligent people continue to use this tired line?

A: Great question. Being guilty of bad judgment is not a strong defense for someone with a rap sheet -- and someone who's made a lot of promises to change -- such as Vick. Occasional innocence on the bad-judgment front would be nice.

Q: Moving on to lighter fare. Who wins today's Sprint Cup race at Daytona?

A: You heard it here first: Dale Earnhardt Jr. He'll notch his first victory since the 2008 Lifelock 400 at Michigan, a race that occurred so long ago that it's now known as the Helluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400, which has to be the most fantastic event name in all of motorsports.

Q: Junior, huh? Gutsy call. Bad judgment on your part, perhaps?

A: Guilty as charged.

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