Valdosta Daily Times

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October 5, 2012

Football: Who’s cheating whom?

-- — As much as the community loves high school football — talking about it, assessing the players, attending by the tens of thousands the games each Friday night, the basic truth remains the same.

Football is a game.

But when allegations of cheating are tossed into the mix, football becomes more than a game. It becomes serious.

Such accusations question a team and its coaches’ ethics. They cast doubt on a team’s sense of fair play. Yes, football is about winning, especially in a town with two nicknames dedicated to victories, but even in Winnersville and TitleTown, football is also about building character and deepening bonds in South Georgia families that share a multi-generational experience with regional teams. Football is about the idea of excellence.

Accusations of cheating undermine those ideals and the very essence of tradition in TitleTown and Winnersville.

Not only that, such accusations can jeopardize careers, uproot families and threaten players’ abilities to move onward to college and college sports.

So, cheating allegations should not be made lightly. They should be backed by more than words or uncertain recordings.

These accusations should be made with hard evidence.

Last week, following the Lowndes High Vikings game against Colquitt County, the Packers coach accused the Vikings coaches of cheating. He alleged a former Thomas County Central middle school coach fed Vikings coaches the Packers’ offensive signals throughout the game. A YouTube recording reveals a man in the stands carrying binoculars and occasionally looking to the Lowndes coaches in the press box.

Lowndes High head coach Randy McPherson has said the accusations are untrue. Lowndes County Schools Superintendent Wes Taylor called the accusations “asinine.” The Georgia High School Association’s executive director said earlier this week that the Vikings’ 17-14 win over the Packers will not be overturned.

On Thursday, Lowndes High received official notice of an investigation into the charges.

Accusations of cheating should be taken seriously, but such accusations should not be made without solid proof of cheating.

If coaches or a team are cheating, they should face penalties. However, if coaches are found to make frivolous claims of cheating against another team, perhaps the accusers should be penalized instead.

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