Sunday, June 15, 2008

KING FOOTBALL TRUMPS JUSTICE

It has forever been said that football is king in Texas. That is especially true of the small cities and towns of Texas where Friday night is high school football time and everything else comes to a screeching halt. Texas football fever inspired H. G. "Buzz" Bissinger to write his best selling book, Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream. The book was made into a Universal Pictures film starring Billy Bob Thornton and led to an NBC Television series.

The importance of King Football can be illustrated by how the Mesquite Independent School District handled the theft of its property by the head football coach of Mesquite High School. During his 13 years as coach, Steve Halpin took Mesquite to the state playoffs eight times, winning the Class 5A championship in 2001. Alas, Coach Halpin is not only a championship coach with an annual salary of $92,631, but he is also a big-time thief.

Mesquite is located just east of Dallas. Mesquite Police Department investigators checking out pawn shops for stolen property found cameras and a projector valued at $2,075 which had been reported missing from the high school last month. The missing items had been pawned by Halpin. The police investigators also found that Halpin had pawned 270 items of school property, including laptops, dating to last year. All pawned items were eventually redeemed by the coach and returned to the school.

When the police reported their findings to the school district, school administrators asked them to drop their case against Halpin. School officials said they would conduct their own internal investigation. They did not report Halpin's conduct to the Texas Education Agency as required by law until a month later, and then only after someone had leaked the story of Halpin's thefts to the press. School officials indicated they took no action against the coach because all the "missing" (that should read stolen) items had been accounted for.

Halpin, 52, announced his retirement last month, with June 13 being his last day on the job. You can bet that the thefts would have remained covered up had it not been for the leak to the press. Halpin also resigned last week as president of the Texas High School Coaches Association. It remains to be seen whether or not criminal charges will be filed against him. Thus far, King Football has trumped justice.

How do you think the Mesquite school administration would have handled this case had the thief been a loosing coach? How would they have handled it had the thief been an English or social studies teacher? Or a school janitor? You can bet the miscreant would have been suspended or fired forthwith. The school district would have immediately reported the matter to the Texas Education Agency and would have pursued criminal charges against the thief. But Halpin is no ordinary coach, teacher or school janitor. He is the personification of King Football in Texas.

1 comment:

Vicki said...

This, sir, is a prime example of the travesty of how facts are distorted in the media. The Dallas News reported that Steve Halpin has pawned 270 items. They also reported a camera and a laptop belonged to the school. The Mesquite Star reported on June 21, 2008 that Administrators stated only six of the 270 items belonged to the school. While it was not okay for the coach to pawn even 6 items, it is implied in the media that all 270 items were school property. You bought into that implication and thwarted the facts. You state that he "pawned 270 items of the school's property." Thus - the travesty of distorting the facts.