An Unpopular Stance

January 29, 2015
By R.J. Anderson

The job of an athletic director often includes taking the high road when others are not. This article takes a look at an athletic director who chose to defend a controversial call made by football officials that negatively affected his school's team. Would you do the same?
The week leading up last week's game was an emotional one for Louisville (Ohio) High School football players, many of whom attended the funeral of a classmate who was killed in an automobile accident. So when wideout Alex Schooley caught a touchdown pass with 1:15 to go to give his team the lead over Walsh Jesuit High School, emotions were running high.

Schooley and a teammate pointed to the sky in a momentary tribute to their fallen friend. The referee saw the act, and penalized Louisville for excessive celebration.

Aided by the penalty, which was assessed on the kickoff, Walsh Jesuit had excellent field position to start its final drive, and eventually booted a game-winning 29-yard field goal as time expired. Coaches, players, and fans from Louisville were in an uproar.

However, Louisville Athletic Director Rich Venuto saw things a little differently. Venuto feels the referee was doing his job enforcing the rules.

"He had no idea and nor would he have and I don't think the officials can bring in that type of emotion to what they call on the field," Venuto told Fox 8 Cleveland. "They have to call the game as they see it, that's what their charge is according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association, and that's what we would want them to do as administrators and athletic administrators."

Venuto spoke with the official who made the call. And though he wishes the call had not been made, he respects the referee's decision.

"The gentleman who made the call is a very well known and respected official, someone we certainly hope has another one of our games this year because he has a great reputation," Venuto told Fox 8. "The crew chief engaged me in conversation after the game and told me that this year the celebratory rule as far as drawing attention to yourself is a point of emphasis with the Ohio High School Athletic Association and at the rules interpretation meeting that the coaches and officials have to attend that was one of the things that was brought out, a very strong point so officials do not allow that to happen, so officials are looking out for that and rightfully so."

Louisville fans were up in arms over the referee's decision and its effect on the game's outcome. In addressing these negative feelings, Venuto is imploring the fan base to accept the referee's decision and to move on.

"I think that people's emotions have spilled over and certainly I think unfairly for that official and the crew, and we don't feel that way towards the offical or the crew at all," he said. "You know what, we have benefited from calls in the past. This one we didn't."

R.J. Anderson is the Online Editor at Athletic Management.
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