Good sportsmanship is taught at the youngest level with an emphasis that should be carried through all levels.
Brian Polian, while passionate, young and energetic — is like a dormant volcano, waiting to explode.
Because of poor officiating, the firecracker of a Nevada football coach let his emotions take over, costing his team two unsportsmanlike penalties and most recently, a $10,000 fine from the university itself, which is almost unheard of.
Polian had multiple reasons to be frustrated at the officiating crew during Saturday’s Arizona game.
Officials flagged Nevada for an illegal formation after Polian cleared the play with the officiating crew before the game. They missed an offensive pass interference call against Arizona and instead flagged Nevada. Both penalties led to Wildcat touchdowns in the first half when the Wolf Pack trailed by eight points.
They were awful, making high school officials cringe.
“That formation was not illegal,” Polian said after the game. “It was 100 percent legal. When that touchdown was taken away, it took a little while for us to come back from that. “I know I’m right.”
But in the second half, as the nationally ranked team from the desert starting pulling away, Polian lost it. A missed late hit and false start against Nevada ignited Mount Polian. The animated coach didn’t shy away from his frustration with the officiating crew and it cost him and his team.
“I apologized to the team (for the penalties),” Polian said. “I let the team down. It’s my job to keep my composure. I have to do a better job of keeping my emotions in check.”
I understand the frustration. The penalties were bad, and Polian had every right to be angry. However, when you’re one of faces of an institution, you have an obligation to represent the university and its football program with respect.
“His sideline behavior and interaction with officials — regardless of being right or wrong about officiating decisions – is not aligned with the values of Wolf Pack athletics or the university,” Nevada athletics director Doug Knuth said in a press release this week. “These sanctions send a strong message to Brian, and to our fans, our university and conference administration, and to officials working our games, that we do not tolerate unsportsmanlike behavior.”
It’s difficult to keep your composure when it seems like the football world is gunning for you. However, Polian could have taken the high road although it would not have altered the game to Nevada’s behavior. Instead of jumping up and down and hollering on the sideline at the officials, stay calm during the game and then file a grievance with the Mountain West Conference. Leave it to the conference to examine the game and hand down any sanctions instead of leaving it to your own university to fine you.
It’s bad enough when the conference or league enforces action. But when the University of Nevada is the first to act, you’ve crossed a line and embarrassed the team and university, and on national TV (the game was broadcast on CBS Sports).
Exhibiting good sportsmanship holds true for anyone involved with athletics. It doesn’t matter if you coach in Pop Warner, SYFL or Little League. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing in middle school. It doesn’t matter if you’re the coach at Nevada.
Good sportsmanship applies to everyone in every sport at every level.
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.