A fundamental tenet of good sportsmanship holds that we don't run up the score, and we don't embarrass our opponent by pursuing an individual record in a non-competitive game. Running up the score is an administrator's nightmare. It's an ethical breach, but it's not the type of act that a coach gets suspended for. It enrages opponents, who often get frustrated and commit an act that gets them suspended. Administrators then feel pressure to do something to rein in the coach who's running up scores. This page documents instances of running up the score and pursuing individual records in uncompetitive games.
March 6, 2018 - East Bridgewater, MA - Superintendent Apologizes After Girls Basketball Team Trounced Opponent by 86 Points, Associated Press Wire Service report in North Andover Eagle Tribune.
May 9, 2016 - Spring Baseball Blowouts Add To Rich History Of Embarrassing Prep Scorelines by Cam Smith, USA Today, May 9, 2016 (see this article for a brief compilation of blowout games).
Greenville, Ohio - February 20, 2015 - A school in Ohio won a game by the score of 137-47, generating an opinion piece entitled A Lesson Learned In Sports (Feb. 20, 2015, Greenville, Ohio Daily Advocate) by Dr. Leon Knore, a retired school administrator.
San Bernardino, CA - January 16, 2015 - Girls Basketball Coach Suspended After Defeating Opponent 161-2, CBS-TV, Los Angeles.
Sacramento, CA - September 20, 2013 - Controversial Mercy Rule Has Football Parents Angry, reported by Richard Sharp, KCRA TV Sacramento, CA. The Northern California Federation Youth Football League created a national controversy when it instituted a 35 point "mercy rule." Two points to note. Virtually no youth league wants to see teams run up the score. Running up the score creates controversy. Second, the NCFYFL didn't really create a mercy rule. Under their rule, if you win by 35 points or more your coaches get suspended and the team pays a $200 fine. That's not really a mercy rule. This rule is similar to the Connecticut 50 point rule, but it's set lower. It's the wrong tool to use to stop teams from running up the score primarily because you can beat a team by 35 points without running up the score. Right now, the league is doing what many organizations do when criticized: they're defending their rule. Later, they'll adjust it. They just need time.
South Bend, IN - September 2, 2011 - Gehrig Dieter from South Bend's Elkhart Central High School didn't run up the score. He may not even be a poor sport, but his coach is. Dieter's coach played him throughout the fourth quarter of a 63-10 blowout win so that Dieter could set the national record for receiving yards in a game. Yes, the opponents certainly noticed that the team that was clobbering them continued to pass the ball to their top receiver. The game was marred by bad blood and poor sportsmanship. This didn't play well locally. See Do Records In High School Football Trump Sportsmanship? by Kyle Neddenriep, Indianapolis Star, September 16, 2011. It didn't play well nationally either. See East/West/North/South Xtra: OK, It's A Record, But ... by Rich Emert in Rich Emert's High School Football Notebook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 8, 2011.
Riverdale, Utah - January 18, 2011 - Utah Basketball Team Runs Up Score, Creates Controversy. See 108-3? Did Christian Heritage Do The Right Thing, ABC 4, Riverdale, Utah, Jan. 18, 2011.
Houston, TX - January 4, 2010 - More Running Up The Score - And It's Only January - 170-35 Basketball Rout. Is this the right way to do things? Houston's Yates High Seems To Think That Piling It On Is OK. See Fair Play or Bad Sportsmanship by Kevin Quinn, ABC TV 13, Houston, TX, January 6, 2010. One bad turn led to another in Houston. Running up the score leads to bad atmosphere, fights, and post-game verbal jousting between the "disrespected" Lee Coach and the Coach from Yates, who said what every coach who runs up the score says, "[My subs] work really hard in practice, and when they go in, they deserve the chance to play hard and compete, too." See Yates Sets Texas Scoring Record In 170-35 Win: Lions Break 18-Year-Old Record In Fight-Marred Victory over Lee by Jenny Dial, Houston Chronicle, January 5, 2010. For more, see the running up the score page. Note: Yates's Coach Greg Wise didn't stop here. He continued to run up scores, pressing opponents to the bitter end and running up 100 points on numerous occasions. For more on Yates High, see Yates High: Still Running Up The Score, trueslant.com, January 21, 2010; and Someone Stop This Hoops Coach, Before It's Too Late: Life of Reilly Column by Rick Reilly, ESPN The Magazine, March 22, 2010, page 96. Yates is not without its defenders, though. SeeNation's Best School Basketball Team Deserves Praise, Not Scorn by Roland Martin, CNN.com, March 12, 2010. I note that Roland Martin's opinion piece illustrates a very common sportsmanship problem. Many people outside of the sports world (and Mr. Martin is decidedly outside of the sports world) don't get it. To some extent, their not getting it is quite understandable. They view sports as a game, and see little reason why the superior team in a game should not simply play to their maximum capacity, win the game by whatever score they happen to win by and move on. Those who advocate not running up the score tend to be from the school of thought that sports has a greater meaning and a greater ethos than the mere playing of a game. I note that at the high school level, running up the score is a sufficiently large problem to have created a plethora of rules to counter it. For example, in most - if not all - states a high school basketball game clock runs for the entire fourth quarter if a team is ahead by more than 40 points. In an educational setting, it really does violate professional ethics to run up scores - but as Roland Martin's opinion piece indicates, it sure is hard to convince an outsider that running up the score is not a good thing.
December 10, 2009 - Running Up The Score? Girls High School Team Loses 65-0. See Wrenshall (Minn.) Girls Hoop Team Blanked In 65-0 Loss, USA Today, December 11, 2009;
October 27, 2009 - NPR Covers Blowouts and Running Up The Score. Is there an ethical way to clobber your opponent? See Football Blowouts: The Art To Winning Big, by Mike Pesca, National Public Radio, All Things Considered Show, October 27, 2009.
Hillsboro, OR - October 16, 2009 - Should you put your star running back in the game with less than 2 minutes to go and a 32-13 lead? Maybe. But do you actually turn him loose on two running plays instead of taking a knee? The back could get hurt and you run up the score - but for what? See Nick's Picks: Running Up The Score: When Is Enough, Enough? by Nick Christensen, The Hillsboro Argus, October 30, 2009.
Hollywood, FL - September 11, 2009 - Running Up Score Rears Its Ugly Head in Florida. Chaminade-Madonna High School stirs up "running up the score" controversy in 83-0 win. The big question is whether Chaminade-Madonna ran up the score or did they take out starters, run the ball instead of passing, and use a running clock - the standard techniques of holding the score down against an outmanned foe. See Florida HS Football Team Defends 83-0 Rout by Dallas Jackson, Rivals High, September 15, 2009. We can't be sure that Chaminade-Madonna didn't run up the score, but we know darn well that Cave City High School in Arkansas went out of its way not to run up the score. On September 18th, Cave City played an outmanned Yellville Summit team a week after one Yellville player died and four of his teammates were injured in a car accident. Cave City's Thamail Morgan understood the situation, taking a knee instead of scoring on a breakaway run at the end of the game. See Arkansas Player Ends Game With Noble Gesture by Luke Matheson, Arkansas Varsity.com, September 24, 2009.
Dallas, TX - January 13, 2009 - Covenant High School in Dallas defeats Dallas Academy 100 - 0. They then seek to forfeit the game due to their embarrassment over running up the score. Can post-game remorse make up for the bad act of "running up 100" on an opponent? After all, Covenant surely knew they were not only running up the score but trying to "run up 100" at the time they committed the act. Does "sorry" make up for an unsportsmanlike act? See Dallas School Apologizes For 100-0 Win, Will Seek To Forfeit Victory, Sports Illustrated/CNN.com, January 22, 2009; Dallas Academy Bulldogs, 100 - 0 Losers, Gain National Attention by Barry Horn, Dallas Morning News, January 24, 2009. Click here for Dallasnews.com's video coverage to see how well Dallas Academy handles this loss. Is there a right way to handle a mismatch? Well, yes. For a comparison of Covenant and another Dallas school that knew how to handle a mismatch the right way see Dallas Academy's 100-0 Loss Raises Questions: What's Fair Game? by Barry Horn, Dallas Morning News, January 25, 2009.
Estero, FL - October 14, 2008 - 91 - 0 Game Tough For Both Teams, AP Wire Service on Rivals.com. Yes, this was a 91-0 game, but when you read the story you'll see that the coaches and players are saying all the right things and handling it as well as it can be handled. Of course, there is some dispute as to whether it was handled as well as possible on the field but this blowout does not seem to have engendered as much ill will as some of the other games where scores have been run up.
Toms River, NJ - September 8, 2007 - Annual "Civil War" between Toms River North and Toms River South Has Ugly Subtext Due to Allegations of Running Up Score. See the September 11, 2007 Tony On Baseball Blog on The Asbury Park Press Website.
Seattle, WA March 26, 2007 - Washington: Fastpitch Game Gets Out of Hand by Nathan Joyce, Maxpreps.com. (softball team wins 64-0 and baseball team has 24 run inning).
Running Up The Score and Ethics - October 10, 2006: See The Ethics of A High School Football Rout, The Ethics Scoreboard (discussing the West Virginia incident and the philosophy of not running up scores as an ethical principle).
Pursuit of Record Brings Sportsmanship Into Question by Eli Saslow, Washington Post, October 6, 2006 page A01. (in this West Virginia incident, a player sets a rushing record in an uncompetitive football game).
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference passed a 50 point blowout rule in 2006 to prevent schools from running up the score. While well- intended, did they get it right?. Click here for information on the Connecticut 50 point rule.