February 13th, 2015

Reed: Donhoff did the right thing

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Billy Reed

Executive Editor


Reed: Donhoff did the right thing
Dominic Lampe was suspended, ending his wrestling career at St. X, after chewing tobacco was found in his backpack / photo from WSTX

Even by teenage standards, it was a stupid thing to do. Along with two other students, Dominic Lampe set off a firecracker in the St. Xavier High School wrestling team’s locker room. That led to a search of the lockers and backpacks, and a tin of chewing tobacco, or “dip,” was discovered in Lampe’s backpack.

Now, Lampe is not just some ordinary wrestler. Last season he won the state championship in the 160-pound class to become the third Lampe brother to achieve that pinnacle. This season, as a senor, he was considered a lock to win another title, this time in the 170-pound division.

Given the facts, some athletic directors would have found a way to cover it up or give the kid a break. In this day and time, after all, what’s a little “dip”? Lampe’s father, Jeff, thought that’s what St. Xavier’s Alan Donhoff should have done. Instead, Donhoff observed the letter of the school’s policy, which requires an automatic and immediate suspension covering 10 percent of the wrestling season.

That means Lampe will be ineligible for this week’s Region Four tournament at Manual and next week’s state championships in Lexington.

Instead of applauding Donhoff for his decision, the wrestler’s father told The Courier-Journal’s Jason Frakes, “I would like to have seen a punishment that doesn’t have to cost so much. … I guess their hands are so bound by their rulebook that there are no other choices.”

Precisely.

And good for them.

A main reason parents send their sons to St. Xavier, or any private school, is so they can get the kind of discipline that is woefully lacking in many public schools.

This is no guarantee that products of private schools won’t get into trouble when they leave their high school environment. But it does seem that most kids learn that rules are important and that bad, or stupid, decisions have consequences.

The rules of St. Xavier’s athletic department are unequivocal. There is no room for misinterpretation. They apply to the lowliest bench-warmer as well as the state champions. If an athletic director or coach is not going to enforce them exactly as they are written, then they would be meaningless and administrators would justifiably become objects of scorn.

Are St. Xavier’s rules too harsh? That’s not the point. They are there and every athlete agrees to observe them or suffer the stated penalties. The parents all know what the deal is — or at least they should. No exceptions. No cover-ups to protect the stars.

In the wake of the story by Frakes and accompanying column by Tim Sullivan, the C-J polled its readers on whether Donhoff make a mistake. More than 60 percent supported his decision. That’s not only refreshing, it gives rise to the hope that many fans still believe in honor, integrity and discipline.

In a sense, Donhoff only was doing the job he’s paid to do. Yet we have so many examples of athletes receiving special treatment that he stands out more as the exception instead of the rule. As we all know, many big-time college athletic departments routinely cover up transgressions by star athletes because winning trumps everything in today’s sorry culture.

At this moment, University of Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops is wrestling — no pun intended — with what to do with three players, including ballyhooed quarterback Drew Barker. Last fall the three were caught shooting a pellet gun out of a dorm room, which forced the campus into lock-down mode. Then earlier this month, they were involved in a bar brawl in Richmond.

Chances are, the rules of UK’s athletic department aren’t as strict as those at St. Xavier. Still, what Stoops does with the trio will send a clear message of what kind of program he intends to run.

As always is the case with leaders and stars, Lampe let more than himself down. With Lampe, the Tigers, who are No. 3 in the current state rankings, had at least a shot to win the fourth state title in in the program’s history. Without him, their hopes are considerably diminished.

No doubt Donhoff likes state championship trophies as much as anybody in his position. But not at the expense of letting a star athlete off the hook for a clear violation of policy. Good for him.

So Dominic’s high school career is over. He apparently will follow brothers John and Justin to Tennessee-Chattanooga, where he’ll begin wrestling in the fall.

His suspension should not be viewed as any serious defect. Here’s how his father put it: “It’s a really bad teenage choice with a really full-grown-adult kind of punishment.”

Yes. And that’s a good thing for all concerned.

 

 

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