Thursday, August 23, 2012

A case for integrity

Lee Hedges, speaking at his recent induction to the Ark-La-
Tex Sports Museum Hall of Fame (Shreveport Times photo)
         Whenever I see a reference to forfeited football games and how they are recorded -- such as the ones Penn State just forfeited for 14 seasons -- I think of Lee Hedges.
          For instance, does LSU now list the Capital One Bowl at the end of the 2009 season -- a game  it lost to Penn State 19-17 on a day when the Tigers played miserably on a miserably wet field -- as a victory?
           Before I wrote the blog piece on Lee Hedges ("One coach tops them all," July 31), I checked with Lee Hiller -- longtime Shreveport Times agate guru and record-keeper, expert-on-everything Captain Shreve High athletics) -- for Coach Hedges' year-by-year football record.
           The bottom line was 217 wins in 27 seasons. However, I noticed right away that the list Hiller sent me had the 1963 Woodlawn record as 9-2-1. Don't have to look this up because it is in my memory bank, but that season's record has always been 8-3-1.
           The game is question was the one against Byrd, a 14-7 loss. A couple of weeks later, Byrd was ordered by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association to forfeit eight victories (four in district) because it used an ineligible player.
           Lee Hedges promptly told the media -- and me, as sports editor of the school newspaper and yearbook -- that we should list the game as a loss for Woodlawn in our records. And that's the way it stayed through the years.
           "Byrd won the game," he reasoned. "We don't want anything given to us."
           (The result, however, did stand with the LHSAA, which is why Woodlawn made the playoffs that year as the second-place team in 1-AAA behind Bastrop. And that's what put us in New Orleans on Nov. 22, 1963 -- the subject of a future blog.)
            Somewhere through the years, someone -- not Hiller, not me, not Coach Hedges -- changed the game to a win on his record. When I pointed this out to Hiller, he went back and double-checked and found some instances where Coach's total record had 217 wins and some where it was 216.
             Hiller said he would change it to 216 wherever he saw the discrepancy.
             Sure, it doesn't matter in the big picture. We all know that Lee Hedges is considered by many the best high school coach in Shreveport-Bossier history, and one of the best ever in the state. But this just points out the type of integrity he had.
              As for LSU and Penn State, I haven't seen the latest LSU football guide, but on the LSU web site, on the Les Miles' record page, the Capital One bowl game is listed as a loss. Miles' total record at LSU (75-18, seven seasons) includes a loss to Penn State. The record for 2009 is 9-4.
            And that's fine with me. If the NCAA wants to put an asterisk by that game to note a forfeit, so be it. But I saw the game, and LSU didn't deserve a win.
            I also think of Lee Hedges when I see a reference to a team having a "rebuilding" season.
            Before the 1962 Woodlawn season, after a "miracle" season in 1961 when the team went from 0-9 the year before to a 9-3 record and the district championship in its first year of eligibility, the headline on The Shreveport Times preview story, said, "Knights in Rebuilding Year."
            Coach Hedges' philosophy on that -- and I heard him say this several times -- is that every year in high school football was a rebuilding year.         
            His thinking was that you always put together a new team, You always have a lot of spots to fill. It's not like the pros, where you might have most of a team coming back from year to year, similarly to college programs, too. In high school, especially in the bigger programs, teams are often senior-dominated.
             So in my sportswriting career -- with Coach Hedges' influence -- I tried to stay away from using the term "rebuilding." If I ever did, I hereby apologize.
         One more Lee Hedges note, this one from John James Marshall, the best quarterback-turned-sportswriter in Louisiana history (he was a good QB, the leader of an undefeated state championship team at Shreveport Jesuit in 1976; he was a much better sportswriter and sports editor).
          Covering a Captain Shreve game for us at the Shreveport Journal in the 1980s, John James went to interview Coach Hedges afterward. As John James was leaving, Coach Hedges asked him, "Are you going to call me a 'veteran mentor?' "
          "Well, if you want me to I will," John James replied, laughing.
          "Good," Coach Hedges answered. "I like that."


  1. Pretty sure Penn State's games were vacated, not forfeited. No win for the other team. I guess they could remove the loss, though.

  2. From longtime New Orleans sportswriter Marty Mule': There's a difference between forfeit and vacate. The latter just means it can't be counted as a victory (but doesn't erase the loss), like the Ohio State-Arkansas Sugar Bowl. In a forfeit (which is not the case in the Capital One Bowl), the loser technically can claim the victory.

  3. As a past Woodlawn player I can guarantee everyone that a loss is a loss is a loss to Coach Hedges and what appears in a record book is the last thing he every thought about.

  4. A loss is a loss, bottom line. Memory of the game says it was indeed a loss.

  5. From Casey Baker, Shreveport: Important to me. I never heard a curse word or even crude language by a member of the coaching staff. I never saw a player abused or mistreated. After listening to other former high school athletes, I realized how blessed we were to be coached
    by The Man.