East Liverpool Potter football has been seemingly on the lips of everyone in the southern part of Columbiana County the last couple of days.
It's amazing what one hears, and how little of it is true. While I haven't had the chance to sit down and start digging into this situation, here is what I know, or at least think I know.
First of all, there are different types of mistakes. There are "honest" mistakes. Then there are "deceitful or larcenous" mistakes. An honest mistake is when you do something with good intentions and it doesn't work.
A deceitful mistake is when a person does something knowing full-well that it is wrong, but they just hope they don't get caught. Stealing, shoplifting or cheating on a test all fall into this category. The deceitful ones are the ones who are the first to yell, "It was a mistake", and are quick to blame someone else.
The person who makes the honest mistake is an honorable person, who just made an error in judgment.
From what I have been able to piece together, or think that I have pieced together, East Liverpool's Pat McNicol misinterpreted an Ohio High School Athletic Association rule. The rule basically allows schools or booster clubs, to buy cloth (t-shirts, sweats, jackets, shoes, etc.), food and other services for their student-athletes. There is a dollar limit on this, per athlete. I'm thinking it's $200, but since the OHSAA is closed over the weekend, I'm not 100 percent sure on the dollar limit. From what I've figured out, McNicol mistakenly thought that "performance money" was legal, as long as it fell under this dollar limit.
If McNicol would have given out fancy T-shirts for the "Special Teams Play of the Game" or, whatever it was called, that would have been legal. If he had wanted to be deceitful about it, he could then have bought the T-shirt back from the player for $20, and that probably would have been permissible. It would have been as unethical as all get out, but it would have been within the rules.
Being a man that lives within the rules, McNicol probably wouldn't have even considered something like this. Instead, being a person of principle, he just awarded the $20 in an open manner, thinking that is was permissible.
McNicol was using the money as motivation, nothing else.
When this whole situation started to break open early last week, a deceitful person would have hustled to the players and told them to keep quiet. McNicol didn't do that. Supposedly, when asked about these $20 bills by the administration, he openly admitted what he had done. A deceitful coach would have needed a new set of teeth the way he would have been lying through his old ones. But, that's not McNicol. He's a straight shooter.
Back at the beginning of the season, a deceitful coach would have probably gone to some loyal boosters and asked them to front for him, by them being the person, or persons, to distribute the money. That would have kept a deceitful coach's hands clean, at least on the surface. McNicol's hands got dirtied because his heart is clean.
McNicol sees the world in black and white, right and left, up and down, and right and wrong. He is a man of principle, who simply made a mistake in understanding a rule. Everyone of us makes mistakes. It just happens that this coach's honest mistake is played out in front of an entire community and in surrounding towns.
Alfred Johnson, a 1974 East Liverpool High School graduate and most senior member of the Potter coaching staff has the unenviable job of getting the Potters ready to play their oldest rival, the Salem Quakers, this week.
For the good of the program, Johnson agreed to take over the reins on such short notice.
If he hadn't, Friday's problems would have mushroomed. It can't be much fun for Johnson and the rest of the Potter coaches, who are a very close-knit group, to be working this week without McNicol. This is a group that goes places such as Pirates, Steelers and Pitt games together when they have the time. They have great respect for one another.
This is a time when Potter fans should put their individual differences aside and get behind the program. The players and coaches deserve it.