October 2, 2012 • FootballHuddle Up

Leaked football scouting reports raise ethical concerns

Kevin Hoffman“Winning isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.”

That’s a quote coaches love to use, and while we all appreciate its tenacious message, we’ve come to accept it’s not entirely true. Coaches teach and serve as role models. They also use sports as a vehicle to build leadership and strong character.

That doesn’t mean the quote — spoken famously by coaches Henry Russell Sanders and Vince Lombardi — doesn’t hold literal meaning for some. The most recent example is a group of schools in Illinois that were anonymously sent detailed scouting reports about one opponent (including medical records), raising safety issues and creating an ethical dilemma that’s sure to be talked about for years to come.

The worst part is, of those schools that received the classified information, not one alerted the victimized school to what was happening.

The facts are incomplete. What we know, based off a report in the Chicago Tribune, is this:

Nine schools on LaSalle-Peru High School’s football schedule received a scouting report that included details on the team’s offense and defense, player skill levels including weaknesses and strengths, and medical histories. A coach for one of those teams, following a 35-0 stomping of LaSalle-Peru, told the coach what he was given. LaSalle-Peru’s coach alerted the athletic director, and only after the athletic director requested the scouting reports from opposing schools did they turn them over.

Months prior to this, a teacher at LaSalle-Peru was dismissed from his assistant coaching duties with the football team for undisclosed reasons. It’s not clear whether he’s responsible, but he has now been placed on leave from his teaching duties, indicating there may be some connection. But that’s irrelevant to my point.

At this juncture, I couldn’t care less about the identity of the responsible party; I want to know why those nine schools kept quiet and failed to take reasonable and ethical actions by notifying LaSalle-Peru.

There are details we don’t know. Did the coaches actually see the reports, or did they sit on someone else’s desk, lost amongst stacks of papers? Was the mailed report routed to someone outside the athletics department who may not have understood its significance or malicious intent? We don’t know, but what we do know is troubling enough.

The fact that these schools turned over the reports to comply with LaSalle-Peru’s request seems to indicate they were well aware of their existence. And the opposing coach for LaSalle-Peru’s first game has the nerve to make the team aware of the report at the game’s conclusion? If a player from LaSalle-Peru had been significantly injured in that game and it became known that his medical history was included in that report, the opposing school and coach could be looking at a major lawsuit.

Assuming coaches for these nine teams were aware of the documents, I’m appalled and disgusted that they didn’t respond properly. Coaches or athletic directors here should be investigated and fired if it turns out they used these reports. They should not be in a position of leadership, especially with children who are supposed to be taught ethics and fair competition.

Football fans recall the New England Patriots with “Spygate” and most recently “Bountygate” with the New Orleans Saints. These nine schools could be guilty of acts much worse, partly because this was perpetrated against children.

Coaches have a responsibility and most handle it well. They should be rewarded and celebrated for the hard work and dedication they put into their craft. The last thing we need is the actions of a few to spoil the game for everyone else.

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