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Jason Schmitt is the editor of, the high school sports website for The Oakland Press. He has served as the sports editor for a number of newspapers, including the Daily Tribune in Royal Oak and the Macomb Daily in Mount Clemens. In his time in the industry, he has covered every high school sport and has served a a beat writer for boys and girls soccer, boys and girls tennis, hockey, wrestling, bowling and cross country.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Unfair criticism at Clarkston?

As a journalist, our job is to be objective. We keep our opinions to ourselves and state the facts and back them up with commentary from our sources.
There are situations where all the facts do not come out in a story, where due to requests from our sources (generally off the record comments), we write around them. This happens in journalism. It's the reality of our business.
Last night we had a breaking story from Clarkston, where athletic director Dan Fife informed The Oakland Press that the school's football team would be forfeiting their wins in the first two weeks of the season. The reason was that an academically ineligible player had participated in the victories over Rochester Adams and West Bloomfield.
The player had attended summer classes and had completed his obligation to be re-instated onto the team. All he needed to do was submit some paperwork to finish the process. Somewhere, somehow, that paperwork did not get into the proper hands before the team played its first two games. Thus, an academic violation had occurred. It was an honest mistake by all accounts.
The school, including Fife, followed the proper procedures and the result was that the team would have to forfeit their season-opening victories over the Highlanders and Lakers. As hard as it is to accept the punishment, basically a self-imposed one, for the mix-up, I applaud Fife, coach Kurt Richardson and the school for doing the right thing.
So many other schools would have taken the easy route and claimed ignorance or swept it under the rug to maintain a 3-0 record and an inevitable spot in the state playoffs. Clarkston did not.
But already people are commenting on message boards and Facebook walls that the Wolves cheated. It's unfortunate because the proper steps were taken, but a mistake was made. The school fessed up to it and took its medicine.
Everyone is entitled to their opinions. And we love them here at The Oakland Press and I just figured I'd offer up mine. Clarkston did the right thing and, although it's a hard pill to swallow at the moment, the kids will ultimately learn a lot from this situation. And it's quite possible they'll learn it sooner rather than later. And that might spell trouble for the Wolves' opponents the rest of the year.

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Anonymous Clarkston Fan! said...

I'm not too sure what the kids will learn from this as stated in this article. Afterall, they are the innocent victims here. Hopefully Fife is the one that learned something. Do your job correctly. And If anyone gives Fife a pat on the back because he did the right thing by reporting this error, think twice. He deserves no applause here. He screwed up! Clarkston Varsity players recieved the punishment. But its time to move on, Clarkston Varsity looks outstanding and if you don't agree then you probabley haven't been to a game. They are still #1 in my book because they played hard and deserved to win each game. So don't count them out just yet. And for the comments about Clarkston cheating? The player was not first string, he hardly played in the first two games, so think about it, why would Clarkston cheat? Those comments are from idiots.

September 13, 2011 at 3:36 PM 
Blogger Jason Schmitt said...

Clarkston Fan!

I tried to keep my blog post short, and in doing so I might not have explained myself in the best way possible. I guess I should have expanded on my point that "So many other schools would have taken the easy route and claimed ignorance or swept it under the rug."
Did someone (I don't know all the facts about how the mistake occurred) make a mistake? Yes. Was it the right thing to do to admit the mistake and forfeit the games? Yes.
But in today's society, it's easier just to keep your mouth shut and look the other way. Clarkston officials took the high road instead of the easy way out. Sure, most Clarkston players and fans are mad at the fact the innocent players have to suffer because of the "mistake," but I have so much more respect for the Clarkston community for the steps they've taken since. That was my point.
I teach my kids to tell the truth and play by the rules. They know that it's best to come clean and tell the truth right away. That's a valuable lesson that perhaps this situation will "teach" everyone involved. Thanks for your comment. We love the feedback.

September 13, 2011 at 4:12 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well the adults screwed up again!

September 13, 2011 at 10:33 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it doesnt suprise me feel bad for the players but not for fife

September 14, 2011 at 11:31 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Schmitt, you have to take the comments in the context of recent Clarkston Varsity football experience. 22months ago, a very poor series of playcalls by the coaches (not the players) cost the 2009 team a chance to go to the finals. What you said in your blog now is almost verbatim what we as parents of these players got fed. Now, that was a mistake in the heat of battle, fog of war, whatever you want to call it. I can (and did) defend that back then, to others outside of Clarkston. As hard as that was. Now we're going through this again, but this time over an administrative blunder, the staff did NOT do their job, not in a minute or two in a game but over the course of several days? I can't defend that, no way. Its unacceptable, period. If a student athlete had to complete a class over the summer to be eligible, you as a head coach or AD HAVE to get that checked out ahead of letting that person suit up.
You CANNOT leave that up to others to complete. The desire of this kid to play and the head coaches willingness to allow it has now cost the team as a whole. They are told the team comes first, individuals second. That's why its a team sport.
Playoffs? If they make it, then they probably play districts/regional semis/finals away now, not at home. That's pretty big deal in High School football, you know that.
As far as self-reporting and doing right thing? In a community like Clarkston, patting the AD & head coach on the back for self reporting means nothing. That act is to be DEMANDED as part of living up to a higher ethical standard than seems to be the norm in other places these days. The focus has to be on what the Superintendent, AD and head coach are now going to do different. The learning taking place has to be about consequences not about fessing up to an error. I'd venture to guess that most of the players (not all, obviously) are way beyond that lesson already.
Shame on the adults in charge, they really screwed up and once again the players bear the brunt of the punishment.

September 14, 2011 at 7:57 PM 
Anonymous Clarkston Fan! said...

I appreciate your response to my previous comment Jason, but there are still things that bother me about your article. You are making Fife look like a hero here. He told the truth. Great! Awesome! I would not expect any less from a high school administrator that mentors children. But should he be applauded for that? These boys work so hard, not unlike any other football team. They start months before people are even thinking about football again, they are in the weight room all summer, they take hard hits and run tough drills during practice while their buddies are still swimming in the lake. They deserve the wins for their amazing efforts and dedication. These young men have to work even harder now because somebody did'nt do what he was required to do. Fife isn't a new employee. He isn't new to football either. How did he not know the rules? Sometime's sorry is just not enough. But with that said,the team is not going to let this issue stop them from going after what they want. Thanks Fife for the lesson in honesty but my kids can get that lesson at home from their parents. Just stick to what you were hired to do.

September 15, 2011 at 4:07 PM 
Blogger Jason Schmitt said...

Clarkston fan ...

You're not alone. I've received a few comments/emails from people who don't like the fact that I, or our contributing writer Scott Burnstein (go to to read his column), gave the administrators at Clarkston credit for doing the right thing.
I guess when you're so passionate, and close, to a situation as are the people of Clarkston, there really is no excuse for what happened. Totally understandable. Because I have no inside knowledge of this incident, nor any past incidents that might have happened at Clarkston, you could probably take my blog for what it is intended to be, an opinion.
And who knows, I might be way off base. I'm not trying to make anyone out to be a hero, rather trying to state the obvious, that the right decision was made. I'm not applauding anything that led to the situation, but rather how it was handled afterwards. If you and other Clarkston people hold your coaches, your administrators and the community as a whole to these high standards ... I applaud you for that.
As I stated in my original post, some others might not. And that's a shame. And that's kind of why I wrote about this situation in the first place.
I think, as you stated, this team has a goal and this will probably be just a road bump en route to where it wants to be. And if that's the case, tune into The Oakland Press as we intend on following our best teams deep into the playoffs. Clarkston will certainly be in the mix.

September 15, 2011 at 4:40 PM 
Anonymous CLARKSTON FAN! said...

Okay Jason, I forgive you. You now are starting to see my point. CLARKSTON has integrity not arguing that. I look forward to your article when you write about the CLARKSTON WOLVES over coming this in the end. See you at the playoffs!

September 16, 2011 at 10:44 PM 

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