Mike Knowles, you are no gentleman!
“It’s unfortunate, that’s all I can say,” Knowles said. “It’s unfortunate for the young lady. But you’ve got to teach the kids that rules are rules.”
Stated by Monrovia High School Track Coach Mike Knowles after successfully encouraging the disqualification of Robin Laird, from rival South Pasadena High School, for wearing a friendship bracelet on her final pole vault and thereby winning the Rio Hondo League championship.

I learned about this issue when listening to Mike and Mike on ESPN radio last week. Here is the full SI artcle. I was surprised initially that ESPN radio was covering a SoCal High School Track Meet, and then I realized that the sport itself was just the setting for one of those lessons of sport are the lessons of life moments. I’ll preface this by reminding my readers that I loathe policy without purpose and have never been one to support the creation and enforcement of rules, favoring applying the combination of guiding principles and wisdom instead. What happened to Robin Laird of South Pasadena High School is a perfect example of why.

Mike Golic of ESPN radio repeated a radio-friendly version of the phrase “chicken shit” over and over again, and I was incredibly impressed by his declaration that if his child was on the Monrovia team, he would never let her play for Mike Knowles ever again.

The articles and media attention that has followed has attempted to balance the story on the one hand stating how important it is that High School athletes learn the importance of following rules, while cries for sportsmanship and the emptiness of winning by losing are carried by others.

I on the other hand will not be so subtle. Mike Knowles, get your head out of your ass! I’ve coached undefeated league championship teams at the High School level too so I know how important it is to win and also know that it so much more important to be a role model. Given my experiences, I feel quite confident in my ability to make that claim along with the strong suggestion that you do some serious soul searching about your priorities.

The rule is there to protect the athletes from injury. That’s it. It does not protect against an unfair performance advantage and you know it, I know it and everyone else who’d heard of this story knows it. Her bracelet had NOTHING to do with her making that excellent vault and leading her team to victory. If I had such a lapse of judgment, I would expect, no I would demand that my players, my family and my AD remind me to get my head out of my ass.

Thumbing through the numerous online reactions to this situation, I have yet to find anyone who actually provides a compelling argument supporting Mike Knowles actions. Why? Because there is no positive spin on this story. Here’s a few of my favorite recommended responses:

“Yup, it’s all about you Mr. Knowles. You’ve sure taught those kids a lesson to win at all costs. Be self absorbed and only worry about yourself.”

“And I LOVE the idea about sending him friendship bracelets!! Address below…

Monrovia High School
845 West Colorado Boulevard
Monrovia, CA 91016″

and my personal favorite:

“Rules are rules. Time for the building inspector to check out his house. Have the DMV inspect his vehicle. IRS audit the past 7 years of taxes…..After all, rules are rules.”

It’s time to take a lesson from John McEnroe. You know the one where his opponent makes an incredible play which is then overturned due to a ticky-tack bullshit rule imposed by the chair umpire or line judge? And just to show that they really have no real power, Johnny Mac would hit his next shot 20 rows into the upper deck to purposely lose the point and give his opponent his just due. It’s about doing what’s right.

You and your players should do the same. There’s nothing more that I would love to see than you and your own players either publicly or quietly giving back the championship to the team that actually won this contest. And don’t you dare give me excuses about league rules or things that can’t be overturned. You have the patches. You have the trophies. Bundle them up, pile them and your team into your van, take the South Pasadena High School team out for dinner and give them a true mea culpa. You can still do the right thing, and if you can’t, your players certainly can. And in that action, they too will be truly champions.