Aquinas Football

I could go on and on about this.  Full disclosure:  I am an AQ alum.  Not that it matters, really, as I imagine you’ll soon see.

Briefly, Aquinas has been dominating local high school football for about a decade, which is an accomplishment but then we, and everyone, tend to make too much of it.  Football is a sport, an often meaningful one, but proper perspective on it, and other sports, and celebrity, and other things, has been thoroughly lost in the last, oh, 50 years.

But I digress.  For further information, if interested, here’s the AQ Football Facebook page.

Anyway, this year, a controversy erupted because a player on the team was, as later determined, arguably ineligible to play in the first “playoff” game, the playoffs in many ways having become little more than a speed bump along the AQ football team’s ultimate triumph over all comers.  And so even though AQ won the playoff game officials declared the game forfeit and disqualified AQ from further participation in the playoffs, ending AQ’s season and winning streak.

That’s one way to end the monopoly.  Probably not the best way.

So the officials were taken to court, as they can be but rarely are, and one reason it’s so rare is that the law is highly deferential to “officials” who make administrative determinations.

And it all went before a judge and he sided with the officials.  Which, normally I’d say this was standard operating procedure (the government wins) but this time I’d have to say Justice J. Scott Odorisi rendered a very thoughtful, and even sensitive opinion reaching a largely unexceptionable result.  The result was basically in the cards, because all the officials really need under the law is a rationale for what they did that isn’t something in the nature of lunacy.  And this they had.

So you can read a little more here, if you’re interested.  And the opinion is here.  And I don’t expect anyone other than a lawyer, and a Rochester New York lawyer at that, to be interested enough to wade through all that.

But there’s one thing that bothers me about the post hoc spin from the newspaper article, to the effect that this was all the fault of the Aquinas staff, that the rules were well known, that there may have been some gamesmanship involved where Aquinas was attempting to take advantage by concealing from opponents whether that particular student would play – which, if true, I myself would find highly objectionable: gamesmanship by the perennial champions is quite unseemly and lacking in graciousness and good sportsmanship, and for that reason alone I would have no issue with the outcome here.

But back to the one thing.  Apparently the whole flap was started by a phone tip, after the forfeited game, to the “officials”.  And unless I have misunderstood, the officials admitted they knew who the phone tip was from but declined to reveal the person’s identity.  And Justice Odorisi apparently went along with that.  And that was the event that started the ball rolling for officials determining that a football game that had already been won had to be forfeited.  Which is, let’s face it, a pretty dramatic thing for officials to do.

Thus the post hoc spin is especially hollow:  the Aquinas coach and athletic director should shut up and “own” their mistake?  Fine.  The caller and the “officials” should own that phone call, too.  And no one’s calling them on that.

Except us over here at Lawyers on Strike, apparently.



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3 responses to “Aquinas Football

  1. guardian

    agreed. one concern about the “anonymous” complaint > what if his complainant is a coach or school administrator of any school? This is the likely suspicion and a real possibility. A person in that position I believe would have a legal or ethical responsibility to report this as soon as they had knowledge. This game took 2 days (sat & sun) to play due to weather delay and the anonymous complaint didn’t happen until late Monday. It appears this person knew of the violation prior to kickoff and certainly before the game resumed on sunday and definitely Monday morning. If this was indeed a violation it needs to be reported ASAP and not put aside to use only if needed.


  2. Kent

    If I had been a Pittsford coach or player I would have never accepted the “win” against Aquinas. It taught the players nothing about fairness and learning to accept defeat on the field of honor. I would have been embarrassed to have accepted such a “win” by forfeit, especially because the ineligible Aquinas player was the week prior on the sidelines with jersey on during Aquinas’s last regular season game, medically cleared to play. I am an R-H alum (and played basketball at R-H) … As an athlete I would have much rather lost to Aquinas than Pittsford yesterday. The best team moving forward is not Pittsford but is the Aquinas team that sadly had to forfeit over a vague rule they failed to correctly understand.


    • Kent and guardian, thanks for the comments.

      The point I was making is that the identity and motivations of the person who complained is an important part of this story and the media are just spiking that aspect of it.

      There are all kinds of technical things that could be reported to this or that “authority” but only an asshole does it. I mean we are all aware of that. If we wanted to be dicks we could report lots of people for lots of things. And for the most part people are not dicks and don’t do that even though they could.

      But lawyers are probably aware, more than most people, that starting the procedural ball rolling is a fateful step and often can only wind up in one place, and that place is often unfair.

      This episode was not just about Aquinas screwing something up. This was also quite probably about a vindictive and malicious person, and I think people should know who that was, but he or she should also have the opportunity to make their case otherwise.

      And I think another interesting question is what the media’s, not to mention Section V’s, rationale is for spiking this information.


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