Mathieu, for his part, thinks the decline can be reversed—and says the ex-athlete currently in the mayor’s office could help. “I know Mayor Gray pretty well,” he says. “I know he loves and cares for the sports programs in the city. If somebody in authority would show him how to streamline the system to deal with the issues that are crippling it, I believe in short order he’d change what’s necessary. If you’ve got that support, it can be done.”
Not that Mathieu is trying to be part of that change. I remind Mathieu that his old job as DCPS athletic director remains open, and ask him if he sent in his résumé.
“No, that didn’t happen,” Mathieu says.
Leftwich, the Carroll AD, still seems stung by Coolidge’s stand-up routine. He’s a D.C. native and, as a star on the Carroll basketball teams that put up a 55-game winning streak from 1958 to 1960, a local prep sports legend. The cancellation of a football game, he knows, leads to trickle-down miseries. “It’s a whole production,” he says. “And losing that is a disappointment to everybody, from the kids that have been practicing all along on down.”
High school seniors get one less chance to show off for college scouts. There are bands and cheerleaders that don’t get to perform, and alumni gatherings and fundraising and spirit-building efforts that get flushed, whenever a football game gets scrapped.
To wedge in an overused cliché: That’s why they play the games.
And that’s why, ultimately, the disarray at DCIAA is outrageous. In a city where the schools have let down students for a generation—and at a time when elected officials are patting themselves on the back for supposedly reversing that—the sports programs are a blatant representation of adult leadership failing students once again. And, as opposed to academics, where standardized test results have become the stuff of front-page stories, it’s a place where the system’s failure has gone largely unnoticed and unpunished.
In fact, reformers ought to care deeply about football, and every other sport. Off-the-field administrative futility is yet another sign of systemic bumbling, the sort of thing that should worry all of those parents that DCPS leaders say they’re wooing back to the public schools. And on-field triumphs—or even just the joys of on-field competition—strengthen the bond between schools and kids, not to mention the parents, families, and community members who city leaders like to tell us are key to the system’s future.
People outside the system—the ones with a choice–hint that they’re through with DCIAA. Johnson, the athletic director at McNamara, says he’s not sure the District’s brass comprehends the damage caused by their new forfeit-friendly ways.
“We didn’t have the football game, and that’s the concern for me,” he says. “Losing a game is a very big deal.”
Johnson says that McNamara’s schedule this season left the weekend of Oct. 7 open. He’s currently looking for another school with the same date open in hopes of making up the game lost to Coolidge over an alleged lack of security guards.
He’s not looking everywhere, however.
“Am I considering a DCIAA school for that game? No sir, I’m not,” he says.