Notebook > Sports

Rush's blitz

Sports | The reality of high school football may surprise some viewers

Issue: "Street theater," Sept. 30, 2006

Ever since Two-A-Days debuted on MTV on Aug. 23, Hoover High School football coach Rush Propst has faced criticism. The behind-the-scenes reality series was supposed to tail the suburban Birmingham, Ala., football squad through a season to give a glimpse into the making of a top-level high-school football team.

Hoover officials had hoped the series would show the school in a positive light. But the process of molding a football team must be like making sausage: No one likes the sausage grinding, but everyone likes the sausage. Hoover fans might like winning five of the past six state championships in Alabama, but parents might be shocked to see what happens at practice.

In the first few episodes-filmed during the 2005 season, but aired to run concurrent with this season-Propst and other coaches fly into torrents of foul language, and at one point after a loss Propst threatens to withhold scholarship recommendations for seniors hoping to play college football. Propst has apologized for the harsh language in an interview on a Birmingham radio station.

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Naïve parents might expect Propst's hard-nosed approach to be an exception rather than a rule in the high-school coaching fraternity. After all, the student athletes aren't professionals. But Hoover's football players practice like professionals, meeting before sunrise for player meetings and film sessions and staying hours late after school for more meetings and practices. Coaches like Propst make big bucks-$94,000 for the Hoover coach-to deliver wins.

Winning multiple state championships in a football-rich state like Alabama would satisfy most high-school coaches. Propst has eyes for another title. He wants a high-school football "National Championship." Some might say that such a thing can't really exist, considering that the top high-school teams rarely play each other. But that doesn't stop Student Sports from publishing their Fab 50 national rankings and crowning a mythical national champion each year. And it doesn't stop Propst from trying to add that to Hoover's trophy case.

Around the Horn

CRIME: It could have been much worse for former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett. Considering police found the former football star on Aug. 9 with guns, Kevlar body armor, and an open bottle of Grey Goose vodka, Clarett should be thankful to get a conviction that at a minimum will keep him in prison for years. What if police had never stopped Clarett that night? Would he even be alive? Clarett's Sept. 18 plea bargain means he won't be out of prison for 3 1/2 years.

FOOTBALL: Apparently nothing riles the University of Oklahoma like cheating. A pair of blown calls by Pac-10 officials that helped Oregon notch a one-point victory over the Sooners on Sept. 16 angered University President David Boren so badly he fired off a letter to the Big 12 conference demanding the loss be nullified. The Big 12 declined, but Pac-10 officials did express regret for the mistaken calls. One of the replay officials said death threats may force him to resign.

GOLF: The U.S. Ryder Cup team doesn't stand a chance against Europe if it can't even cross the pond. Massive amounts of luggage delayed the American golf squad's trip to Ireland on Sept. 18. Team captain Tom Lehman said he and his wife packed lots of amenities, and he singled out huge stacks of tortillas his wife packed as snack items. "My wife ordered these tortillas and I packed it into my golf travel bag and I tried to move it and I couldn't even get it off the ground," he told the Reuters news service. "I couldn't even move it an inch."

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