The Louisiana high school football season officially begins in September.
No one wants to hear a sob story about John Curtis’ football program.
J.T. Curtis has won more games as head coach than anyone in the nation while in charge of the Patriots’ program.
And believe me, growing up in New Orleans and hailing from a family that has lived in New Orleans forever, I know all of the stories about how Curtis allegedly bought his way to the top.
The stories about Curtis are legendary, both in content and in nature, because they for the most part have never been proven.
But when as a state are we going to stop punishing kids, coaches and schools for perceived wrongs from decades ago?
John Curtis brought an appeal to the LHSAA executive committee Wednesday centering around former offensive tackle Willie Allen, now at LSU, and the forfeiture of all games Allen participated in during the 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons.
The original punishment was levied after an investigation by the LHSAA reportedly discovered that Allen had lived with Patriots’ assistant coach Jerry Godfrey during some of his tenure at the school.
The LHSAA only discovered the infraction because an unnamed source texted assistant executive director B.J. Guzzardo a newspaper article detailing the situation. Guzzardo then passed it up the chain of command and an investigation ensued.
During the so-called investigation, which could have been completed with a simple Google search, Curtis never denied the fact that Allen stayed with Godfrey and said throughout their many years of operation it was a situation that had happened before.
Allen, who lived in New Orleans East, was taking a bus to school every day to River Ridge, roughly 20 miles and 30 minutes away.
During the appeal Allen stated that he didn’t want to go to a school closer to his residence, because he wanted to get a better education than he would receive in New Orleans’ public schools, which are nationally recognized for their mediocrity.
So, when Godfrey asked him why he was late to practice sometimes and Allen responded with his story, the coach decided to help.
They asked Allen’s uncle and mother and both agreed to let Allen live with Godfrey to make it easier for him to attend John Curtis.
So, to be clear, a kid who was already attending the school started living with a coach to make it easier to attend the school that he wanted to go to.
In the LHSAA Handbook 2.1.2, athletic recruiting is defined as, “the use of undue influence and/or special inducement by anyone connected directly or indirectly with an LHSAA school in an attempt to encourage, induce, pressure, urge or entice a prospective student of any age to transfer to or retain a student at school for the purpose of participating in interscholastic athletics.”
Other than being a terribly vague section the key word in this situation, according to the LHSAA, was “retain.”
In the LHSAA’s mind the coach only allowed Allen to stay at his residence in order to retain the services of Allen for the football team, despite Allen’s stated desire to stay at the school as evidenced by his willingness to travel on a bus for an hour every day for AN ENTIRE YEAR without asking to stay with a coach.
Listen, I’m not naïve, I understand that this type of practice goes on at a lot of schools (both public and private).
Guzzardo even mentioned a scenario from when he was a coach, where a player was kicked out of his home and wanted to stay with Guzzardo or another coach in order to attend Kentwood, but Guzzardo said no because he knew it could get them in trouble. Then, miraculously, a family stepped up and allowed the athlete to stay with them so he could continue to attend the school.
It’s not a coincidence that this typically happens with football players as opposed to, say, the debate team.
As coaches, educators and administrators what are we in the business of athletics for?
John Curtis took a kid in Allen — who by all possible definitions was in a very bad situation — and allowed him to attend the school, which gave him a better education than he would have gotten at any public school in New Orleans. And that led to the opportunity for Allen to receive a full football scholarship from LSU.
Rather than celebrating the story of giving a kid the opportunity to rise above what was dealt to him in life, we’re arguing about wins on a football field on Friday nights.
It sickens me.
I understand if because of what Godfrey did for Allen it violated some poorly written rule in a convoluted albatross of a handbook and an initial punishment had to be handed down. But the whole purpose of the appeal process is to give the LHSAA a chance to evaluate and potentially re-write the rules in their handbook.
Unfortunately, I think most, if not all, of the executive committee members had their minds made up before the appeal hearing even started, because of the name John Curtis.
We’ve all lost the point of athletics. It’s not about wins, it’s about teaching lessons of life through sport. For some reason we’ve become such a championship-obsessed culture that it seems like nothing else matters.
John Curtis’ mission statement is Building Champions for Life, and with Allen they did that.
The only problem is the LHSAA punished them for it.