Politics, playing time roils Red Wing football squad as coach quits

The coach of Red Wing High School’s football team has resigned, just a few days after a GOP politician said his son was punished for his politics.

The Republican Eagle newspaper says John Ott has quit, but won’t say why until later this week.

This week, John Howe, the former mayor and state senator and an unsuccessful candidate for Congress, complained to the school board on Monday that his son was targeted for being Republican on the winless football team.

“The reason I got involved is I found out that my son has been getting harassing comments from the coaching staff about being a Republican,” Howe said, according to the newspaper. “(David) didn’t share that with me, I found that out from another student’s parents.”

Howe’s son wanted to be the team’s quarterback but was moved to the offensive line even though he was the team’s backup QB last year and attended football camps over the summer.

“I talked to the coach about it and I’ve been told that since I’m a senior that I’m not going to be given the opportunity because I’m not the future of the program and another player is going to get it because they’re going to have him for more years and they need to develop him,” David said. “I’ve spent my whole high school career putting my time toward (playing quarterback) and I haven’t gotten the opportunity to do what I want to do. I’ve been told I’m not going to get it.”

Over Red Wing’s first five games, the team has played one quarterback while falling to an 0-5 record. At games, John Howe said he has seen these opposing teams play 13 different quarterbacks.

“There’s been some issues with other players and coaches. I know some of the players want back on the team and I believe they should get an opportunity to come back and play,” David said.

John Howe added, “One kid tried to come back to the team and the staff had the football captains decide if that individual should be part of the team. I don’t think it’s up to a juvenile, a set of juveniles or team captains to decide who’s part of the team and who’s not part of the team. I think that’s the role of the adults in the room and the administration and it shouldn’t be on the kids.”

When asked about playing time, Ott declined to comment.

In a Republican Eagle profile of Howe’s switch to a starter on the offensive line last month, he hinted at some displeasure.

“Coach said we needed more linemen, so he moved me to line. It was kind of like, we need you here,” Howe said. “I’ll do whatever is best for the team.”

[Update 10/11]- The Republican Eagle obtains a copy of the resignation letter:

“I cannot be employed by a district that allows parents to dictate where their child should be playing on the football field, nor can I consent to a parent to allow their child to continue to play football after their son has undermined the football team and staff by failing at a coordinated attempt to organize a walk out,” Ott wrote.

“Members of a team have a responsibility to behave on and off the field in a way to contribute to the team’s effort to be as successful as it can. As a coach, that is my responsibility to uphold that obligation with support from administration. I do not have that support. I have always had a policy of not discussing playing time with parents, yet I have been thrust into two such meetings by administration where playing time was allowed to be discussed.

“It is imperative that the head coach has the ultimate say when it comes to playing time, which is why playing time is addressed in the football guidelines that the parents sign consent to, before their son is allowed to participate. Having been forced by administration to have these playing time meetings has been particularly damaging to the football team.

“Finally, at no time has anyone in the football program in any way, shape or form harassed anybody about anything. These accusations have been made formally by John Howe in front of the school board on (Oct. 3). Nothing could be further from the truth. I am truly flabbergasted that a parent was allowed to speak at a recent school board meting, as it was in direct violation of numeral three of the school district’s public comment guidelines. Because of this, I am also choosing to resign as a teacher with the district. I cannot be part of a district that fails to follow its own guidelines.”

  • “I don’t think it’s up to a juvenile, a set of juveniles or team captains to decide who’s part of the team and who’s not part of the team.” – John Howe

    Then stay out of it and let the coach do his job?

    • John O.

      Maybe the former Senator is looking for a new gig.

  • Will

    Can I pose this question, what is the intent of focusing on this particular story?

    Is it about the ridiculousness of politics even being involved in high school football?

    Is it calling out the coaches for caring about the political background of a player?

    Is it trying to attack the father for an imagined slight against his son?

    Is it perhaps showing the inanity of so much focus even being on high school football in general (especially an 0-5 team)?

    Just curious how the author intends for the reader to understand/take this particular article…

    • As I’ve said for 9 years, I select stories I find interesting. What you should take away from it is that I found it interesting mostly because I don’t often hear stories of politics getting in the way of youth sports — I mean actual politics. Anyone who’s ever had anything to do with youth sports knows that some sort of politics is the name of the game.

      You are not required, of course, to find it interesting.

      The name’s Bob, by the way. Nice to meet you.

      • Will

        Hi Bob, good to meet you too.

        I didn’t intend my comment to be a slight against you, I was just curious about how you looked at the article…the irony of actual politics in high school football is interesting enough for me too.

        I have to say it is refreshing to see a confirmation of anti-Republican attitudes in public education, hopefully this is an extremely rare example but perhaps it isn’t.

        • I get it.

          I’ve never heard of players being — allegedly — singled out for their party politics before so I’m not sure it’s a confirmation of anything other than a parent in Red Wing says his kid was.

          The big, hairy meanings I usually leave to others.

  • Veronica

    Oh, Red Wing. My silly hometown that had some of the last KKK rallies in the state.

  • Ron

    This is typical everywhere. Parents who couldn’t tell you the difference between the A gap and a 5 technique think their kid should play Qb. I just had the parent of a kid who fumbled after a 15 yard run tell me it was because of a bad handoff. Yes, 15 yards. 95% of the parents are GREAT, but coaches who are basically working for free aren’t getting paid enough to put up with this bs. Good luck, Red Wing, in finding a quality coach for a replacement. No one worth a crap will ever apply. I have previously coached with coach Ott, and I know he will do what is best for the team. It is too bad that one parent is willing to destroy the team just to get his way.

  • Eric Benson

    There is a question here that goes beyond politics or griping parents. It comes down to a philosophy of high school sports.

    Apparently, Red Wing wasn’t supposed to be very competitive this year, so the philosophy was to concentrate on the younger players and hopefully in a couple years develop a really good team. I can understand that.

    On the other hand you have the Seniors on this team who have been waiting most of their lives to get to this point and show everyone (college scouts maybe?) what they can do. And they are now saying “Wait a minute! We don’t get our chance?” I get that too.

    So what should our high school sports philosophy be? What is more important? Winning? Or giving the students a chance to play?

    • nuwandathegreat

      Actually, high school sports philosophy should revolve around the development of character and preparation for adult life. The lesson that we can’t always get what we want wouldn’t be the worst thing for kids to learn.

      • Ron

        Life will teach that to them soon enough. If coaches don’t want to give seniors a chance, because they want to focus on developing younger players, they should just be up front from the start. Senior year is a busy time. There’s a lot of other things seniors could be focusing on. Oh, but then they wouldn’t have their bodies for practice, would they? Maybe when a kid just doesn’t roll over and take this rotten scheme his character is developing.

        • nuwandathegreat

          It reads as if he has been on the offensive line since early in the season, since the other QB has started all of the games, so he could have quit before the season started, but chose not to. Now, maybe he thought he could beat the other player out, but that isn’t happening. Instead of having his Dad complain, maybe he should decide to either finish out his Senior year of football, or he could choose to leave the team.

          • I suppose there’s a discussion in the “what does it mean to be a good teammate” category to be had here. So far, as near as I can tell, this entire issue is in the “what’s in it for me” column.

    • Anon

      This is a wise comment that gets to 1/3 of the issue.

      • steve

        What are the other 2/3 of the issue?

  • Kevin Biegler

    John Howe lost the primary and yet is still campaigning … and whining