You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sun, Oct 14, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

Top 5: Considerations for Ann Arbor as officials resolve Friday's high school football brawl

By Paula Gardner

Previous coverage:

Ann Arbor prep sports took an ugly and unusual turn on Friday night when the post-game handshake between Huron and Pioneer coaches turned into an on-field brawl.

Thumbnail image for 10122012_SPT_HSFootball_HuronPioneer_DJB_1104b.jpg

The incident left one teen with an injury that required medical care. And now the Ann Arbor Public Schools, Ann Arbor Police Department and Michigan High School Athletic Association are all investigating the circumstances and taking punitive - and, we hope - preventive steps for the future.

Here are our top 5 considerations for the community as AAPS heads into a week when administrators will determine the outcome of the situation, even as state officials and police weigh their own options.

1. The community deserves thoughtful and decisive action from Ann Arbor Public Schools. We’re all forming opinions about this brawl, its causes and what needs to happen. However, we now need to trust that the district will appropriately weigh information and reach the best conclusions. In return, administrators need to tell us what will happen and why, and provide the transparency to prove that they’ve earned our trust. The general public is not in a position to know details of employment history, student behavior history or how rules about play and behavior have been delivered to coaches and students. Those could be factors in a resolution. What we do know is what we’ve seen - many people witnessed the event, including district officials. We’re not getting signals that this is anything other than a serious matter receiving urgent attention. We need that to continue as decisions are made.

2. When jobs are at stake, officials shouldn’t rush to judgment. The people involved deserve a fair analysis of the situation. While people may have wanted to hear an immediate result, that can’t happen when the stakes are this high. Job performance must be evaluated on many levels. Any termination should happen amid a full examination of the chain of responsibility and determination of failings of responsibility along that full chain. That’s going to be a painful but necessary part of this weekend’s investigation.

3. We need our kids to know that life isn't like a video game - and that fights can be criminal. Everything said and done at this point could have legal ramifications for the people - adults and teens - involved. And that is serious, more so than any teen suiting up for the game that night could have predicted for the end of the game. This incident is documented. We know portions of the video recording have been viewed by some involved and assume that many administrators have watched - and police will be looking at it, too. We’re not assuming the quality and angles will make it foolproof, but our criminal justice system will be handed visual evidence, not just statements, about what happened.

4. How the adults respond - during the game and now - is guiding our kids and their actions. Even with the 35-6 final score, both teams on the field could take pride in playing hard to a legitimate outcome. That’s why they’re there. But the adults around them set the tone for whether that can be a respectful outcome amid a decisive loss. The behavior of coaches guides the difference between “respectful outcome” and the opposite. In all sports and on all teams, we’re looking to coaches - winning or losing - to act responsibly and with maturity. The likelihood is high that kids who trash-talk, over-react and fail to leave a game on the field are finding that attitude condoned in the locker room. The end of the game included penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct. And this paragraph, from the original report on the brawl, indicates a problem beyond the fight: “As the Pioneer team broke from their post-game huddle, some players taunted and laughed at the Huron huddle, prompting some parents to yell back at the Pioneer players. A Huron parent was told to leave the field by police.”

5. This has to become a teachable moment for the kids. The message from the district, the police and the MSHAA will resonate across the community. But we’re hoping there’s a way to reach these kids on their level, too. Social media has been buzzing with 140-character and Facebook messages about this incident. We’re reading them, we’re choosing not to report them at this point, and we’re very concerned about the tone of many of them. One boy is bragging about breaking his hand that night. Others are “trash talking” with joy about the brawl, about whether coaches will keep their jobs, about hurting people. There is evidence that these kids do not and will not understand that this incident is unusual and serious. And it’s not just about football.

Paula Gardner is Local Content Director of Contact her by email.



Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 10:20 p.m.

Both coaches are suspended for at least one game.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 8:37 p.m.

After reading a lot of comments, it sounds like the MSHAA or whomever may want to consider instilling some kind of "grace period" concerning the musical chairs of coach hiring within a district. While it doesn't appear to be the case in this specific brawl, it seems like some of the animosity between Pioneer and other teams stems from having former coaches as new Pioneer coaches and having the players kind of give the former team "pay back" to show loyalty to their new coaches. Maybe a grace period (one or more seasons) to let some wounds heal, so to speak would be helpful?

Billy Bob Schwartz

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 6:39 p.m.

Paula...This is an excellent, well-thought-out article. Tangentially, I want to thank you for using the term "preventive." So many these days are apparently into "preventation," and thus, "preventative." This is a very complicated situation, with many, many possible outcomes, some very serious for those involved. As you say, it is important to do this the right way. I think it's part of the Culture of Nasty that seems to be involved so much in life in America these days. If the kids only watch the superfund nastiness of the current election, what more example do they need? I think it's time for us all to try to become more "civilized." Setting a good example for kids comes only when we behave in such a way that we would want kids to follow our example in being more human. I hope all the nastiness of that game will be replaced with understanging that, even though many of us love football and competition of many kinds, IT IS ONLY A GAME.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 5:55 p.m.

For those that advocate ending the season. Let me offer an alternative. Sit the coaches for the rest of the season. Play the remaining games, but if pioneer is playoff eligible they decline to go. And if the officials can determine there were certain players that only made things worse end their season.

Jim Mulchay

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 4:51 p.m.

The situation after the Pioneer / AA Huron game was unfortunate. As far as a "teachable moment" - if you believe in the value of interscholastic sports (which I do) then that "teachable moment" ought to have occurred during practice, film sessions, off season workouts and prior games - not after an incident like this. It is also a "teachable moment" for coaches and administrators that the sportsmanship message for the students may not getting enough reinforcement from the adults.

The Great Gazoo

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 4:21 p.m.

In my opinion I think that both teams should have their season canceled or at least some other type of sanctions imposed. This is not the first time Pioneer has ran up the score at a game this year, their un-sportsman like conduct has been growing more and more this year and this behavior is unacceptable at the Grade School Level. What do you think the punishment would be if this was a Big Ten game or one in the NFL?...


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 4:44 p.m.

Noun 1. grade school - a school for young children grade school - a school for young children; usually the first 6 or 8 grades While I do not approve of the way it appears coach Test has run up the score. This should not be a factor in ending the season! What do you think the punishment would be if this was a Big Ten game or one in the NFL?... They CERTAINLY would not end the season!


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 4:20 p.m.

For those advocating ending the season. I have one question. How many of those kids playing football are only getting passing grades because they are playing football. I suspect there would be a number of kids that would not stay in school if it were not for football.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 5:48 p.m.

AnnArorite My not thinking dropping football does not mean I condone this type of behavior. And in other post I have said I would be fine if coach Test were gone based on what I believe I know. I do not condone smoking marijuana but I don't think putting someone in jail is the answer. Don I am glad to hear there are apparently not many at risk students playing football. Of course that would be the expedient things for the administration to say. But I will drop that argument as it appears that would not be a significant factor.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 5:10 p.m.

JCJ - According to the administration of the high schools last year, few if any "at risk" students played on the football teams, it takes too much time to be a player for the coaching staffs to want to have children on the team who are at risk of dropping out or flunking out. One high school said they had 1 "at-risk" student, another 2 and the third zero - so a total last year of 3.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 4:57 p.m.

You cannot condone this type of behavior or let it go unpunished because someone decides for himself to quit school.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 4:13 p.m.

Great, rational, and above all well thought out article. Calm reflection is what is need here, not "fire 'em all" rhetoric.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 3:40 p.m.

Nice job Paula. The only thing I would add is that both teams seasons should end now. They both participated in this brawl and the kids need to learn that this is unacceptable behavior. Although I am sure not every student was involved, sometimes life is not fair and this was a serious incident, not something that should be taken lightly. While it does impact other schools, that might be a teaching tool to those schools as well.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

Kids fighting like this has been around for ever. I am sure most of us (men) have been in our share. This definitely is a teaching moments for these kids. Its when adults fight that amazes me. I have way to much to lose (money and jail time) to fight with another adult. Grow up and act like adults.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

Remove football from Ann Arbor schools. There are plenty of other sports that are less expensive that can teach the same team spirit. Football is too costly from an ROI perspective.

Paula Gardner

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 1:26 p.m.

Two identical comments from different commenters have been removed. That's a problem in itself, but they also violated our guidelines. However, they were critical of this article, so I'm reposting the civil part of them here. How about this Paula? How about you go find something worthwhile to write about instead of putting non-newsworthy junk on your website? Boys have been been getting in football Friday fights since football existed! It's part of American weather you like it or not.

Jake C

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

I'd response to those commenters by saying, boys may have been getting in "fights" since football existed (which doesn't make it right) but coaches are expected to set a better example. It seems as though the coaches were the ones who set off this whole incident, which is the worst part.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

Sounds like some folks are getting a little nervous about all the coverage?


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 1:05 p.m.

We have brought the thug culture to the football games. Have you wondered why the stands at these games are more than half empty. The defenders that espouse "so called" moral outrage, people vote with their feet. Ann Arbor already has a problem with losing students. Keep this up and you will end up like the Ypsilanti scenerio. Parents who care will place their kids in charter schools.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 4:07 p.m.

How many fans do you think stay away because they are afraid? Not Many. Most just have something better to do.

Rosie Lemons

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 12:55 p.m.

I can not speak to what happened at this game. But I have seen aggressive behavior in many soccer games that I've attended. And while sometimes the coaches encourage such behavior, I have seen more often that the nut doesn't fall far from the tree. I have seen parents yelling at each other on the side lines at the same time their sons on the field are getting carded for bad behavior. So where was this learned and who is at fault?


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 12:44 p.m.

end the football season. withdraw both teams from competition. Then move on to the specific penalties for people directly involved: fire who you should fire, expell anyone using a weapon, suspend the rest.. Cooperate fully with the state and local authorities but really, these teams should no longer compete. I wouldn't want come to their field and I sure wouldn't want them visiting someone elses.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 10:10 p.m.

I am more of the opinion you look for those who misbehaved and deal with them. If some players were trying to break up fights, they should not suffer. Only if such a majority was involved that suspension would render the team unable to field a proper team number wise it is not fair to sanction all for the sins of the few. I have no problem suspending those who incited. Unfortunately that is often the only way to get a point across. But all of them? Seems like a little overkill.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 5:06 p.m.

I think the FBI is a bit of overkill. But the students are not blameless just because they are not yet adults. Some students participated in the brawl as evidenced by the video. "throwing out the baby with the bathwater" would be if both football programs were removed entirely. My suggestion is for the rest of this year, ending this season ... and the fact that this will impact the student body, maybe the majority will say...'that was wrong, and I will not support that type of behavior'. And for the record, I have been to MANY high school football games all over this area for several years now.....


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

And lets call in the FBI! I am all for (based on what I know at this point) suspensions and probably firings. BUT let don't throw the baby out with the dirty water for gosh sake! STOP the panic. " I wouldn't want come to their field and I sure wouldn't want them visiting someone elses." This tells me you have either never been to a high school football game OR it has not been in this century!


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 3:43 p.m.

YES !! I just posted a very similar comment. seems to be a no brainer that both schools forfeit the rest of their season....

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 12:38 p.m.

I suggest we come up with a new term to replace "teachable moment". I appreciate and embrace the concept but geez am I tired of the phrase. ;)


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 4:14 p.m.

Bless you, Craig!

Paula Gardner

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

I'm with you! Will try to avoid it in the future.

Geoff Larcom

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.

A fine piece by the editorial leader of Thanks for taking a balanced leadership role in how this is viewed.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.

It was with shock and great sadness that I read about the post game fight in Sunday's paper. I hope that full details are revealed eventually so that those responsible can be chastised in whatever way is deemed appropriate. Much of the angst I feel has to do with the fact that Paul Test is recognized by this parent as an absolutely fantastic teacher. At the elementary level, he taught our kids respect for one another, emphasized fair play, incorporated all aspects of learning into his gym classes and generally tried to encourage ALL kids to do their best. If we'd all had gym teachers like him, so many of us would have loved that class a lot more. It is with this knowledge of Mr. Test that I find it very, very difficult to believe he could be responsible for fostering any ugly culture in the locker room of Pioneer High School's football team. Maybe what I write will be very unpopular, but I hope all the facts are examined very closely. These 'kids' are not robots. They think and act on their own. If they were directed to behave aggressively off the field by a coach or mentor, that is truly a horrible breach of trust; but I cannot believe that Paul Test would have encouraged this in the slightest. He is just not that kind of person, but is rather an honorable, competitive and fair-minded individual. If it was kids acting on their own, please don't point fingers elsewhere. The 'it wasn't my fault' attitude is getting us in big trouble as a society. If the kids messed up, the kids messed up. Period.


Tue, Oct 16, 2012 : 8:39 p.m.

I do agree with you, Billy Bob Schwartz and I thank you for your added comments.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 7:13 p.m.

"These 'kids' are not robots. They think and act on their own. If they were directed to behave aggressively off the field by a coach or mentor, that is truly a horrible breach of trust;" True on all counts, but a coach (and teacher) has an obligation that goes way beyond not directing or encouraging this type of behavior. He/she has an obligation to demonstrate and encourage and, in fact, to demand the highest forms of citizenship and sportsmanship and decent behavior possible. If this kind of behavior actually has gone on before, what was done about it by the coach? Did he make a big deal about it? Did he punish it? What did he do about it? The investigations will find out about this, one way or the other. I hope your coach/teacher worked hard to eliminate this type of behavior. We will find out.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 12:12 p.m.

Paula - Thank you for not showing the tweets and the facebook postings. My son was showing me a number of them over the weekend. AAPS needs to deal with the posters of many of these as well. It may take a facilitated forum with both teams sitting with each other to work this issue out between the players. I see this whole thing as a failure of the culture in the AAPS school systems, and the boosters who support it, not just a failure in the coaches. It may not sound fair but cancelling the rest of the season for both teams seems to be in order based on what I was seeing on social media this weekend.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 11:41 a.m.

I think the problem is we should have started with number 5, but earlier in the season. I didn't see the game between Huron and Pioneer, but I did see the Skyline / Pioneer game. Pioneer had a serious case of bad attitude, and it probably comes from someone on the coaching staff. I saw us lose to Lincoln Consolidated and Monroe, and they were both more sportsmanlike teams. It's one thing to play your best game; it's another to come on the field knowing you outweigh your opponents by scores of pounds, taunt them along the way, and keep running up the score just to stick it to them. Looks like the Huron coach may have gotten a bit too hot at the end, but from what I saw, he was right about Pioneer's attitude.

Alex D

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 11:06 a.m.

These kids are still minors, so we should not know the student behavior history.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 6:57 p.m.

We should not be told past behaviors of individual kids, but we are talking about a group behavior, and the past group behavior of a certain team should be fair game. If a team has been allowed to taunt and behave like hyenas, that should be part of the story, as I'm sure it will be as the investigations go on.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

I don't think anyone is implying that the public should know the student behavior history but rather that AAPS needs to look at past behavior and how it could have fueled this altercation when it doles out it's decisions. At least that's how I read it.

Paula Gardner

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 10:54 a.m.

Excellent point on suspensions - I would not argue that adults involved shouldn't be suspended during this process, if it drags out. My "termination" comments in my second point were more a reaction to the immediate calls for firing; removing someone from a role while performance is evaluated may be completely suitable. Also, we saw a lot of reaction to earlier Pioneer games in our coverage. Bringing up earlier games and the players' on-field reactions to them could definitely shed light onto what kind of culture had been bred in the locker room in the weeks before this brawl.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

Great thoughts, I agree it is important to look at the culture that is being bred in the locker room. Also as someone else stated, are players being used as part of disagreements between adults? Very sad.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 9:30 a.m.

As a current high school football coach I am appalled by this situation. I was not there to see the incident. I realized around the same time this was happening, I was talking to an opponent of another team and telling him he had just played one of the best games I have ever seen a football player play. I am concerned about the messages some people in my profession are sending to young kids. I tell my players all the time this is just a game that kids get to play. Work hard and have fun! but dont let it consume you. One thing i ask them too is , if football was taken away from you, who are you. they better be able to answer that because no matter how far you make it in the game it is taken from all of us. 95% dont make it past the highschool level. In a coaching job interview I was once asked ," how do you measure success" my answer was by seeing my players 10-15 years down the road with a career and as good family men. let this situation be a lesson for the players involved. football and sports in general, when coached by men, allow for us to teach life's lessons. The lessons our players don't learn while they are growing up, life will teach them. They need to learn that this was criminal and not accepted in society. any coaches that were physically assaulting others need to be removed. any players that was physically assaulting others needs to be suspended. My suggestion is for both teams to have a team dinner together. intermingle the kids and invite Brady Hoke to be a guest speaker. I am sure the kids would listen to what he has to say and be respectful to him and not start problems. Or else this will not end. These kids need to see the severity of the situation. Parents and communities put a unrealistic pressure and emphasis on winning. Now winning is important to me, however it is not how I measure success. Only 8 schools get to finish the season with a win! All others lose their last game.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 3:53 p.m.

very well said, Coach. I too wish you were coaching my boys. Hopefully, insights like yours will be considered and used as explanation...should some people still need that.

Elaine F. Owsley

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 1:23 p.m.

Excellent! When we come to the bottom line, it was the coaches who set the example and lit the fire. Whatever happens, the buck stops there.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 11:04 a.m.

Very well written, coach. I agree with all your points. It would be an honor to have you coaching my kids.

longtime AA

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 8:09 a.m.

Paula, Good article. One consideration I would like looked into is the role that earlier situations contributed to the overall attitides and actions. Specifically, the attitudes Pioneer used in playing against the schools that were the former employers of two of their assistant coaches (dexter and Saline) and how the players were motivated in 'winning' for these coaches. i don't know everything about the Dexter situation, but the coach in question sued the Dexter district, won and received as cash settlement. That is exactly how it should be handled. But to use his situation and have Pioneer players take it out on Dexter players (almost all of whom were not on the team when the coach wass at Dexter) is questionable. as is carrying the coach off the field after Pioneer has routed Dexter. Could this have led to Pioneer players taunting Huron players? Could this have led to Pioneer trying a long pass at the end of a game against a team it is winning easiiy against? Do we want adults/coaches using our high school athletes to prove a point in a disagreement between the adults/coaches?


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 3:11 a.m.

Point 2 misses the mark. People can be suspended while an investigation and job review are being performed. Potentially dangerous coaches do not need to be in contact with our children during an investigation. Again, it is a privilege not a right regardless of behavior to work at and attend Ann Arbor Public Schools. There is nothing wrong with suspending coaches while an investigation is underway. As a matter of fact, considering the injuries to minors involved and the disgrace brought on this community, anything less than suspending these coaches and preventing them from having contact with the minors they were leading during this brawl is really quite shocking. The silence from the AAPS system is deafening. Is it safe for our children to go to school tomorrow? Is there a responsible adult dealing with these behavior problems? So far we have only heard from Liz Margolis in a terse statement that said what happened is not OK. Well, it is not OK that the principal or other AAPS official have not sent a message to parents and students outlining the steps that are being taken to be sure the school will have a safe, controlled and disciplined environment following this incident. Poor communication and poor damage control to date do not bode well for the school district's handling of this disgraceful event.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 12:35 p.m.

you make some good points. If a teacher was accused of some sort of inappropriate sexual relationship with a student that teacher would not be in the classroom while awaiting due process.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 12:22 p.m.

" The silence from the AAPS system is deafening. Is it safe for our children to go to school tomorrow? Is there a responsible adult dealing with these behavior problems?" There is no need at this time to rush to judgement. I expect appropriate action to be taken. And if it is not deemed appropriate by some of us then it will time for us to make our feelings known. But lets not panic and scream it is unsafe. Almost every student involved in the incident had a choice to not be involved. But if you feel it is unsafe to send your children to school. Home school them


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 2:56 a.m.

Thank you for posting this Paula...well written and I completely agree..


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 1:10 a.m.

Any chance of posting a link to the video?

Chase Ingersoll

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 1:04 a.m.

That there was not enough masculinity in the form of fathers in attendance at the game to prevent this, basically speaks to the point that adolescent males involved in such are without fathers.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 5:45 p.m.

Chase I'm impressed. While others are cautiously sorting out what happened you've already identified the players who were involved and done detective work to determine their family situations. Never miss an opportunity to take a complex problem and give it a simple, ideological explanation.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

I thought feminism was supposed to take care of that over the last 30 year. We were toldf, we didn't need responsible males in the household to watch over their sons AND daughters - hmmm!!!

Andrew Smith

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

Good point. Certainly, players and coaches are responsible for, and need to be held accountable for, their actions. But the wider environment in which this game occurred, in which high school athletics take place, and in which teenagers are raised, is significantly influenced by parents, and especially by fathers. Adults who've spent the last fifteen years modeling decent behavior for their teenage sons are to be thanked, and it's quite likely their sons who chose not to engage in the brawl. Fathers who've spent that last decade-and-a-half demonstrating patterns of irresponsibility contributed to the mentality which makes fist-fights seem acceptable.

Andrew Smith

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.

Good point. Certainly, players and coaches are responsible for, and need to be held accountable for, their actions. But the wider environment in which this game occurred, in which high school athletics take place, and in which teenagers are raised, is significantly influenced by parents, and especially by fathers. Adults who've spent the last fifteen years modeling decent behavior for their teenage sons are to be thanked, and it's quiet likely their sons who chose not to engage in the brawl. Fathers who've spent that last decade-and-a-half demonstrating patterns of irresponsibility contributed to the mentality which makes fist-fights seem acceptable.

Chip Reed

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 11:16 a.m.

Are you saying that if the coaches' elderly fathers were there, somehow it would have been different?


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 12:41 a.m.

Nicely written, Paula.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

Agree. Nice job, Paul. This is a good summary.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 12:55 a.m.

So nice to see a compliment written here for once ...