In an unusual move that speaks to growing concerns over the health and safety of teenage football players, a small town Michigan school cancelled the final three games of its varsity football season after a series of injuries to initial varsity members led to the promotion of a number of underaged players.
As reported by the Associated Press, Michigan NBC affiliate WEYI/WBSF and New York Times, among other outlets, the Caro High football program decided to shut up the shop rather than continue sending undersized players with a lack of experience out to compete against larger teams. The decision was brought to a head by the school’s football coach, Todd Topham, and the district superintendent, Mike Joslyn, was approved by two-thirds of the players on the varsity team and will render the team’s final three scheduled games of the 2014 season as forfeits.
Here’s how the Times depicted the evolution of the school’s decision to cancel the season:
Joslyn said Caro’s roster was so depleted that eight sophomores had been called up from the junior varsity. Because so many freshmen had been moved up to the junior varsity, the freshman season had already been canceled. Todd Topham, the varsity coach, then began to worry that his players were so overmatched by opponents’ older players that the games could become dangerous for them.
That this kind of injury blight would set in on a small town team like Caro and immediately take its toll is perhaps not surprising. The town of fewer than 5,000 residents boasts just 524 students in its high school. The Tigers struggled to a 1-5 start to the 2014 season, dropping the program’s cumulative record since 2011 to 4-29.
Still, as with small towns all over America, high school football on Friday nights is an integral part of Caro’s social fabric. Losing three Friday night football games is losing three of Caro’s major events on the annual calendar.
Nonetheless, area residents offered their support for the decision given the support of the plan by the team itself.
“It’s kind of a community thing. It gets the families out and about,” Tricia Deo, a Caro High School alumna told WEYI. “If the kids are fine with it, then I’m fine with it.”
So is Joslyn, who was a strong messenger to deliver the news; the superintendent previously played football at Caro High and in college.
“It’s a difficult decision because our players were out there battling hard, but we’re an educational institution, and with our students, safety comes first,” Joslyn told the Times. “These kids have long lives ahead of them, and we need to keep the brains in their heads intact.
“Half (of the Caro residents) have thanked us for making a courageous decision. The other people say you don’t ever quit, that kids are soft these days and need to get out there and battle. I understand all of that, but our kids were out there battling. We made the best decision we could.”