RCS Sidelines

December 17, 2010 2:54 PM

Ineligible Interference: Illegal Interventions by Coaches and Players

Sal Alosi Trip.jpgIn a developing story, New York Jets' strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi has been both suspended without pay for the remainder of the NFL season and slapped with a $25,000 fine for intentionally tripping Miami Dolphins' gunner Nolan Carroll during their December 12 contest. Alosi and five other Jets appeared to form a wall along the sideline with the intention of impeding Miami's punt coverage.

Although Carroll - who lay on the ground for several moments - was fortunately not seriously injured, that does not excuse the actions taken by Alosi and other Jets' personnel. And though their behavior was both egregious and potentially injurious, by no means were they the first to engage in such an act. Alosi and his cohorts now join the pantheon of team-affiliated individuals who have actively interfered with the athletes on the field of play.

Dicky Maegle.jpgTommy Lewis Leaves Bench, Tackles Dicky Maegle

The 1954 Cotton Bowl was the site of one such play. With Rice leading Alabama by a 7-6 margin, Owls' tailback Dickey Maegle took a handoff from his own five and, just a few moves later, found himself racing parallel to the Alabama sideline with nothing between him and the end zone. With the 11 members of the Crimson Tide defense in his wake, Maegle thought himself clear for a touchdown.

Alabama's Tommy Lewis had other ideas. For some unknown reason (emotion, pride, etc.) Lewis, a running back, left the bench and brought Maegle down at the Crimson Tide 45-yard line. Mortified, Lewis returned to his spot on the bench in an attempt to hide as if he had done nothing wrong, to no avail. The officials awarded Maegle a touchdown, adding 50 yards - on top of the 45 he had already covered on the play - to what would ultimately become his Cotton Bowl record 11 carry, 265 yard day. Rice went on to win the game 28-6; however, the lasting impression of that game is and will remain Lewis's inexplicable intervention.

Woody Hayes Punch.jpgWoody Hayes Punches Charlie Bauman

Woody Hayes won three national titles and 74.3 percent of his games at Ohio State. Despite all his coaching achievements and accolades, the signature moment of his career was the pinnacle of unsportsmanlike conduct. In the 1978 Gator Bowl, the Buckeyes trailed Clemson 17-15, and quarterback Art Schlichter was moving the Buckeye offense into scoring position. With 2:30 left and the ball on Clemson's 24-yard line, Schlichter was intercepted by Tiger noseguard Charlie Bauman. Bauman returned the interception toward the Ohio State bench and was brought down in front of Buckeye players and coaches.

After Bauman regained his footing (and perhaps shot a menacing glance toward the Ohio State bench), Hayes punched Bauman in the neck. Flags flew and the teams had to be separated as each came to the defense of their comrades. Hayes was ejected, Clemson held on for the two point victory, and the Buckeye legend was fired the next day. Thus, one of the most prolific coaches in college football history had his legacy indelibly tarnished by his indefensible, violent reaction.

Bobby Knight Chair.jpgBob Knight's Thrown Chair

Bob Knight is, by any measure, one of the most successful coaches of all time. In 41 full seasons as a Division I head coach, "The General" won three national championships - including the last team to finish an entire season undefeated (1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers) - and won 902 games, the most of all time. Despite his myriad accolades, Knight is known equally, if not more so, for his fiery, uncontrollable temper. No single incident more accurately captures this dichotomy than a 1985 Big Ten contest.

Less than five years removed from their last national title, the Hoosiers played host to Purdue on February 23, 1985. The Boilermakers successfully ignored the rabid fans in Assembly Hall and jumped out to an early lead. Furious with what he deemed unfavorable calls by the officials, Knight was issued a technical foul less than seven minutes into the game. As Purdue's Steve Reed approached the foul line to shoot the technical free throws, Knight seized a chair from the Indiana bench and hurled it across the court. The Hoosiers' coach was immediately ejected and suspended for a game. Knight and Indiana won the national championship just two years later, his third and final crown before further transgressions led to his ouster from Indiana in 2000.

Resonance and Endurance

Sport, by nature, is an emotional endeavor. To play it without competitiveness and passion is to cheat both the game and the individual. By the same token, it requires a certain amount of sportsmanship. Each game comes with its own rules that must be followed to preserve its fundamental purpose and integrity. In each of the previous cases, players and coaches alike - whether calculated or reactive, premeditated or provoked - flouted the basic tenets of their games. Instead, each placed themselves above the rules and breached the code dictated by their sport and its accompanying bylaws. The individuals involved are a diverse bunch, including Hall of Fame coaches and relatively obscure athletes. Yet, in spite of their differences, they all share the same dubious distinction: each wears the scarlet letter that comes with blatant disregard for the rules that govern all sports. It is a mark they must bear for all time.

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