By Jim Baumbach
Nassau County school sports officials approved a “score differential policy” for team sports that they said is aimed at reducing the number of lopsided scores and giving more athletes a chance to play.
The policy expands on a Nassau sportsmanship rule that has existed only in football for the past three years. That rule led to the controversial suspension of Plainedge High School football coach Rob Shaver in October after his team’s 48-point victory over South Side. The football rule required a coach whose team won by more than 42 points to explain what measures he took to keep the score respectable. A committee then would rule on whether the coach did enough.
The new policy for team sports will go into effect in September, though the sport-specific guidelines have not been written yet, according to Dom Vulpis, assistant executive director of Section VIII, Nassau’s school athletics governing body.
Coaches on middle school, junior varsity and varsity teams can be suspended indefinitely if they violate the sport’s guidelines three times in a season.
“Our philosophy is this is high school athletics, we’re playing all kids and we’re doing our best to maintain a representative score where nobody is leaving that venue that day thinking, ‘Oh my God, we just got the hell beat out of us,’ ” Vulpis said.
Sports that fall under the policy are football, soccer, field hockey, basketball, lacrosse, baseball, softball and volleyball, though Vulpis noted baseball and softball aren’t likely to be impacted because they already have rules that end the game when the score is out of hand.
Meredith Jones, president of the Nassau girls basketball coaches association, said she has heard from coaches who are concerned by the punitive part of the policy.
“Maybe I’m a naive optimist, but I think most coaches do put their subs in when they’re up by a lot,” said Jones, also the longtime Freeport coach. “And I’m speaking as a coach who has kicked people’s butts and also have had my butt kicked.”
The policy, which was presented to Nassau athletic directors Wednesday, includes an escalating series of penalties for coaches who violate their sport’s guidelines.
A first offense leads to “a letter of warning” sent to the coach’s athletic director, principal and superintendent.
A second offense will be reviewed by a special six-person committee that will include the sport coordinator and coaches association president and determine whether a “letter of reprimand with a recommendation of consequences” is necessary.
A coach who violates the guidelines a third time is automatically suspended while that same special committee determines for how long, including into future seasons.
The policy, a copy of which was obtained by Newsday, said its purpose is to “provide a wider range of players with additional playing time while keeping the game competitive.”
Jones said, “I think it could be a very good thing to motivate coaches to play subs more and balance severely lopsided scores when possible. I just hope they look at every situation individually, because no two games are the same.”
Vulpis promised they will.
“Just by looking at a score,” he said, “it’s impossible to say that was an egregious act of unsportsmanlike behavior until you bring in all the factors, and all of that will be reviewed.”