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updated: 12/1/2010 4:28 PM

Character counts, even on sidelines

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Daily Herald Editorial Board

Reggie Bush forfeits his Heisman Trophy for taking expensive gifts while in college; Auburn standout quarterback Cam Newton is investigated regarding allegations his dad tried to squeeze money from Mississippi State when Newton was being recruited.

High school football players don't need role models like these. Especially when they're on their own sidelines.

In what should be a proud moment for the Maine South High School football program, instead it faces embarrassment.

Maine South's program has earned the ire of IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman in the wake of the Park Ridge school's triumph over Mount Carmel over the weekend to win a third straight Class 8A state football championship.

Hickman contends that counterfeit passes were made and distributed and numerous alumni were allowed to watch the game from the sidelines. As well, some coaches didn't wear their own passes, leading to the thought that others did. He also said a Maine South coach used inappropriate words when restrictions were imposed on how many coaches could be on stage for the trophy ceremony. And university police in Champaign had issues with the removal of some people with bogus passes, Hickman said.

Hickman also points to concerns over the conduct of the Maine South student body in the Hawks' 29-22 semifinal victory at Loyola.

To be sure, the facts have to come out on this before judgments can be made. Maine Township High School District 207 has yet to issue any statement beyond that it will abide by Hickman's request that it conduct an internal investigation before a scheduled Dec. 13 meeting between the IHSA, school administration and coaches.

South likely will not lose its championship over this, but it probably won't walk away unscathed.

"There are a variety of sanctions that could be imposed in this situation, including suspensions or the loss of postseason hosting opportunities," Hickman said in a news release Monday.

Granted, Maine South is not accused of something as egregious as sneaking in a pro quarterback under center for a possession or two, but rule breaking is a slippery slope. If we throw a bone to the alumni like this, why not break some rules on the field, too?

Football is all about teamwork and honor and striving to be your best. High school sports for many are lessons in how to comport oneself in adulthood. High school is about teaching our children about math and reading and character and being productive adults.

We expect the teachers and coaches to whom we entrust our kids to act as good role models.

If what Hickman contends is true, heads should roll. Kids need to be taught there are consequences. After all, it's more important to teach character than how to score a touchdown.