FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS OUT! THE CASE FOR ABOLISHING HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL


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cropped-LOGO.pngRussel Davis is holding a town hall meeting, discussing his candidacy for the Clark County School Board. He’d like to expand the school lunch program, offer more college prep courses, and explore building dorms for students who need housing. A noble platform but why has Davis’s candidacy attracted camera crews, appearances on local televisions and USA Today’s website?

The reason Davis has attracted so much attention is simple. He also wants to eliminate public high school football Davis loves football. He grew up going to prep games, and hopes that his favorite NFL franchise, the Oakland Raiders, ends up moving to Las Vegas. When Davis played sandlot football as a child, he liked to pretend he was Jack Tatum whose infamous helmet-to-helmet collision with opposing receiver Darryl Stingley left the latter man paralyzed for life.

However, football has a problem. The sport involves getting hit in the head, over and over, which can cause brain damage. People have been concerned about the game’s inherent violence for as long as it has been played, especially when it comes to schoolchildren. In the early 1900s, both the godfather of modern football, Amos Alonzo Stagg, and the president of the University of Notre Dame called for abolishing the sport at the prep level. In 1909, the New York Board of Education banned it from the city’s high schools.

Football’s proponents countered that equipment and rule changes could make the game acceptably safe, and besides, no other sport so effectively turned effete boys into robust men. They won the argument—New York City’s prohibition lasted a single season—and have been winning it ever since.

Over the past decade, however, medical science has discovered that football is more dangerous than previously believed, linking the game to neurological deficits and disease in NFL veterans as well as players whose careers ended in high school. Those findings have rekindled the old debate, with Russell Davis and a handful of others arguing football has no place in public education, where the goal is to nurture, not harm young minds.

paul@CoachesSportsCenter.com

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February 17, 2017