SPORTS: Setting an example rather than a record

MULKEYTOWN, Ill. (BP)--Nate Haasis, a high school quarterback from Springfield Southeast High School in Springfield, Ill., recently broke his conference's all-time passing record. But then Haasis did something even more remarkable -- he turned the record down because of his sense of honor and integrity.

In the last game of the season against Cahokia -- and the last of Haasis's high school career -- he was only 30 yards short of breaking the conference passing record. The only problem was that Cahokia had a 16-point lead and the ball with less than a minute left. Unless something drastic happened, Haasis would fall short.

That's when the coaches from the two teams made an underhanded deal without Haasis's knowledge. Southeast would allow Cahokia to score so that Southeast could get the ball back. Cahokia would then let Haasis complete a pass to break the record.

I think Southeast Coach Neal Taylor's heart was in the right place, and he was just trying to do something nice for his star player. But it was a poor decision, and Taylor has since resigned as the team's coach.

The end of the game unfolded just as the coaches planned, and Haasis became the Central State Eight's all-time leading passer. He should have been thrilled. But the more he thought about it, the more uncomfortable he felt about the way it happened.

"I felt disrespectful to the other players who had played football before me," Haasis said in a story on abcnews.com. "I know teammates fought with me as hard as they could to get me every yard I had and it just didn't feel right the way I got it."

So Haasis petitioned the conference to disallow the questionable pass, thus negating his record. He wrote a letter to conference president Chuck Hoots: "Dear Mr. Hoots, in respect to my teammates, and past and present football players of the Central State Eight, it is my hope that this pass is omitted from any conference records. ... I would like to preserve the integrity and sportsmanship of a great conference for future athletes."

The conference granted Haasis's request, and removed him from the record books. Griff Jurgens, who previously set the record during his years at Chatham Glenwood High School in the late 1990s, still holds the mark.

The record is important to Jurgens, and he's happy that he'll be holding it for a while longer.

"I think it's very admirable what he did," Jurgens said. "I appreciate him doing that. By doing that, everyone can kind of let it go a lot easier."

Admirable, indeed. Haasis could easily have let the matter go, and few would have thought anything about it. After all, cheating is becoming more and more common in sports, as athletes are always looking for a way to get an edge. Just look at all the allegations about widespread steroid use in Major League Baseball, as well as other sports.

But Haasis would have always known the truth, and he didn't want to settle for that. He knows what sportsmanship is about, and he did the right thing. In so doing, Haasis has earned himself more deserved recognition and admiration by turning down the record than he ever would have achieved with it.


Tim Ellsworth is a regular columnist for BPSports, online at www.bpsports.net.

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