The greatest human being of all time once said that anyone without sin should cast the first stone.
Well, this is 2020, and pretty much all of society has a stone in their hand or at least one in their pocket – and still, none of us, except him, have ever been perfect.
Duncanville football coach Reginald Samples is going to have to dodge a few rocks in the coming days. He knows it, and he’s doing the best a human being can do in this day and age, owning up to his misdeed and taking his punishment.
Samples, named the 2019 National High School Coach of the Year by “USA Today” newspaper, was suspended for the first game of the 2020 season Wednesday by the University Interscholastic League. He and the program were also placed on a one-year probation by the UIL, and the program was publicly reprimanded.
“I made a mistake. I can’t deny it,” Samples said. “I’m not happy. I’ve worked 28 years and not had a blemish on my record. I’m not happy with myself.
“Nobody’s perfect, but I do try. The worst part about it is when people look for us not to be perfect.”
Volunteer seen giving instruction to players
What did Samples and the Panthers do that brought about this punishment? Samples said it was a volunteer who was seen giving instructions to the players, sort of a pseudo-assistant. That is a violation of UIL rules.
It could be debated that this pales in comparison to what some programs have been rumored to be doing to win games. Accusations of other programs range from recruiting players to even offering them and their families special perks, such as the perfect job, or a place to live.
With all due respect to the volunteer, it’s not likely his advice led the Panthers to their second consecutive Class 6A Division I state championship game appearance. If that is the case, perhaps this person should be a head coach themselves somewhere.
That said, the Panthers did break the rules. And, as my dad once told me when I was young, if you’re going to play or work for someone, you obey those rules or you find something else to do.
No one wants Samples to do something else. Well, maybe Duncanville football opponents.
Samples is embarrassed, and rightfully so. He said he didn’t willfully break the rules, and his reputation warrants believing that. But not knowing the speed limit in an area doesn’t change the fact that you were going 70 in a 45-mph zone.
Samples says he will be sure the mistake never happens again
Not only is Samples owning up, he said he’s working to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Currently, the Panthers are still eligible for the postseason, but if it happens again, or any other violation happens during the probationary period, harsher penalties will be dealt.
And while that’s ample reason for Samples to instill changes, he’s likely doing so more because of his character. As he said, in almost three decades of coaching nothing like this has happened before, and he wants to make sure it’s a one-and-done incident.
As great as championships are, trophies can tarnish over time and still be valuable. Not so with a reputation.
“I’ve got to be even more careful. I’ve got great parent support, and everyone wants to do their part to help. Sometimes you just get so comfortable with people you don’t pay attention to everything they’re doing,” Samples said. “That will not happen again. You can’t even come in the door. It’s not that I don’t appreciate you, but I can’t let this happen again.”
Though it is unrelated to the football program’s newfound probation, the Pantherettes girls basketball program is currently under a two-year probation by the UIL. This new punishment will undoubtedly bring more finger pointing at one of the state’s premier athletic programs.
Duncanville Team is moving forward
All Samples and the Duncanville program can do is move forward and, as he said, work harder to make sure no more mistakes occur. When you win, you are put under a microscope. When you win and you get in trouble, the lens becomes even more illuminated.
“I wish time would move a little faster so I can get past it,” Samples said.
It won’t, of course. That’s the funny thing about time. When life is wonderful, it flies by. When hard times arise, it can slow to a crawl.
“I woke up this morning. We’ve still got great players. We’re still excited about the coming season,” Samples said. “I’ve had so many people from the community call me and tell me they’re behind me.”
That is how Samples and the program get past this, they focus on the season ahead. Samples is right in that there is much to be excited about, including possibly winning the 300th game of his career (he’s currently 286-83), and he’s still in quest of his first state championship.
That, and letting the paid coaches do the coaching.