Football teams becomes Sandy clean-up crew
A truck drives through a neighborhood flooded by Hurricane Sandy in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey.
November 9th, 2012
10:17 AM ET

Football teams becomes Sandy clean-up crew

Editor's note: Steve Politi is a sports columnist for The Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey. He can be reached at spoliti@starledger.com or Twitter: @StevePoliti

By Steve Politi, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Football can't do much to help the devastated communities along the Jersey Shore after Hurricane Sandy. But this is what residents in dozens of towns are discovering this month: Football players can.

From Union Beach to Seaside Heights, from Belmar to Bayville, local high school teams are aiding the recovery effort with supplies, with support, and sometimes, with strength.

That was the scene in Point Pleasant Beach last weekend. More than a dozen members of the town's undefeated high school team went door to door helping their neighbors. They carried out flood-ravaged debris to the curb, from couches to dressers to dining room furniture, and when they finished one house they would walk as a group to the next and start again.

"I said to the kids when I texted them (to organize the cleanup), the community has been so behind us, this is an opportunity for us, in a way, to say thank you," said John Wagner, the team's head coach.

Many of the players had done the same thing at their own homes earlier in the week. Others were displaced, living in hotels or shelters, not sure where their families would settle long-term.

This is the case up and down the Jersey Shore, the epicenter of the devastation from the unprecedented storm. The images on television days after, from the roller coaster from the Seaside boardwalk sitting in the ocean to the boats piled up like toys on the streets, do not begin to sum up the damage.

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November 2nd, 2012
01:00 PM ET

School board member wants football ban

By John Martin, CNN

(CNN) - A New Hampshire school board member says that he wants to ban football in his district. Paul Butler, a retired surgeon and first-term board member for the Dover school district, says that the risks of injury in the sport are too great. "I think it's bad to take this away I certainly do. But it's worse to let it continue," Dr. Butler told CNN affiliate WHDH.

The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t just call football a contact sport. The medical group also refers to it as a collision sport, because participants routinely slam into each other or into the ground.

AAP released updated guidelines in 2010 on dealing with head injuries in children, recommending that some student-athletes retire from football after multiple concussions or if symptoms from a concussion last longer than three months.

The medical group doesn’t say young people shouldn’t play varsity football, which is what it said about youth boxing in 1997.

Some parents say there are benefits to playing on the gridiron. "I think there's a lot of positive things you can get from playing football. A lot of good lessons kids learn, teamwork, working together for a common goal," Harold Stephens says in the video above.
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Filed under: Kids' health • Policy • Sports
October 23rd, 2012
04:36 AM ET

H.S. football player punished for pink

(CNN) - A high school football coach punished a player for violating the dress code when he wore pink on the field.


Filed under: High school • On air • Sports • video
Cheerleaders win temporary injunction in high-profile free speech case
October 19th, 2012
03:30 PM ET

Cheerleaders win temporary injunction in high-profile free speech case

By Jason Morris, CNN

Dallas (CNN)– Cheerleaders from a small eastern Texas town have won the first battle in their crusade to display Christian religious messages on banners at their high school's football games.

State District Judge Steve Thomas of Hardin County implemented a temporary injunction Thursday in favor of the Kountze High School cheerleaders, and by setting a trial date of June 24, 2013, Thomas effectively allows the cheerleaders to keep displaying Bible-quoting signs at Kountze athletic events through the end of this current school year.

Macy Matthews, a 15-year-old Kountze sophomore, was eating lunch at cheerleading camp last July when her friend Megan became inspired by images she saw on social media.

"She saw a picture on Pinterest of a team that had made a run-through sign with a scripture on it, and as we were sitting down eating, she showed us and asked if we would be interested in doing that for the football season. So, we all talked about it," Matthews remembered. "We all loved the idea and thought it was really cool and encouraging."

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Macy's mother, Coti Matthews, said the girls were excited to use Biblical phrases they considered motivational and uplifting for both the Kountz Lions and their opponents.

"It's their Christian belief, and they liked the idea and thought it was very positive, instead of doing traditional banners that say things like, 'Cage the Eagles,' or 'Bash the Tigers,' she said.

Instead, before the first three home games this season, the football players bolted onto the field through banners bearing New Testament verses such as "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13; "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14; and "If God is for us, who can be against us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31.

Read the full story on CNN's Belief blog

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My View: An easy out for athletes in Harvard scandal?
A referee waits during a game between Harvard and Vanderbilt during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.
September 25th, 2012
06:00 PM ET

My View: An easy out for athletes in Harvard scandal?

Nicolaus MillsBy Nicolaus Mills, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Nicolaus Mills is professor of American studies at Sarah Lawrence College and is working on a book about the West Point football team of 1964 and its service in Vietnam.

(CNN) - Harvard is caught up in a student cheating scandal that its dean of undergraduate education calls "unprecedented in its scope and magnitude." As a Harvard grad, I am embarrassed, but what has me really worried is that Harvard, despite officials acknowledging the seriousness of what has happened, gives signs of trying to finesse the consequences of the scandal where key athletes are concerned.

The scandal centers on 125 students, as many as half of them varsity athletes from the men's basketball, baseball and football teams, according to The Boston Globe. They stand accused of copying from one another or plagiarizing on a take-home exam in a spring 2012 government course, "Introduction to Congress," with an enrollment of 279.

At Harvard the standard penalty for cheating is that a student can be asked to withdraw from the university for a year. In the case of athletes, withdrawal means the loss of a year of athletic eligibility, according to the NCAA, if they are forced to leave after they have registered for classes.

Harvard is seeking to avoid that problem. The secretary of Harvard's Administrative Board, the body that rules on individual cheating cases, sent around an internal e-mail to resident deans saying that fall athletes might "consider taking [a leave of absence] before their first game."

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August 21st, 2012
12:40 PM ET

Coach overcomes homelessness, paralysis and inspires others

By Ashley N. Vaughan, CNN

(CNN) - When it comes to winning, Coach Beverly Kearney, University of Texas head women's track and field coach, knows how to get the job done.

With a coaching career spanning nearly three decades, she has won seven NCAA championships and coached 12 Olympians. In 2007, she was inducted into the USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame.

Needless to say, Kearney's athletes are known to get results.

"They would say that I'm tough. That I believe in being the best you can be at all times," she says. "I am going to demand their best, and I am relentless at it."

But for Kearney, success means more than coming in first place. Her goal is to make others successful beyond the finish line, so she founded the Pursuit of Dreams Foundation. Designed around Kearney's coaching philosophy, the nonprofit strives to connect young men and women with needed resources to realize their fullest potential.

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Opinion: Why do school sports start before classes do?
August 8th, 2012
03:21 PM ET

Opinion: Why do school sports start before classes do?

by LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs

(CNN) - The first "cup" was used in hockey in 1874 and the first helmet was used in 1974. That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important.

That joke's been circulating on the Internet for years. And while it is funny, it's also an embarrassing observation about our past carelessness. But before we start congratulating ourselves about how "advanced" we are now, we should make note of this one little factoid: For much of the country, high school football practice started last month, and for much of the country, high school classes start next month.

Given where our high schoolers rank globally in reading, math and science, that is essentially putting the cup before the helmet in the 21st century.

Here again are the numbers: 14th out of 34 nations in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Again - 25th in math. No wonder we keep saying we're No. 1; there's a chance many of us can't count much higher than that.

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May 28th, 2012
12:35 PM ET

Should P. Diddy's son return $54,000 college scholarship?

Justin Combs worked hard in high school to improve his football game and earn a 3.75 GPA . He recently received a $54,000 merit-based scholarship to UCLA, where he'll play football.

In April, Forbes named Justin Combs' dad,  Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, the wealthiest artist in hip-hop. Some say the family should return Justin's scholarship, arguing that Combs should pay for his son's education and taxpayer money should go to students with greater financial need. Other say Justin Combs earned the scholarship through his grades and athletic ability, and deserves to keep it.

What do you think? Should the Combs family keep, return or donate the money? Should students with wealthy parents have access to merit-based scholarships and financial aid?

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Schools awarded $25K for helping kids move
Students at a middle school in Miami climb on a traversing wall in a Fit-Tech Wellness Lab.
May 22nd, 2012
04:00 PM ET

Schools awarded $25K for helping kids move

By Jacque Wilson, CNN

(CNN) - As the district director of physical education and health literacy for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Jayne Greenberg's annual budget is $0.

That's right - $0.

It's almost unbelievable when you know the statistics - that one in six U.S. children are obese, that nearly one-third are overweight, and that these rates are even higher for Hispanic children (of whom Miami has a high population).

But Greenberg doesn't despair. "I've been in my position since 1995 - I've never had a budget," she says. "It's always been up to me to find my own money."

She has also found a way to encourage students to sign up for gym class again.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools is one of nine regional finalists in the Active Schools Acceleration Project's first annual Innovation Competition. ASAP is an initiative started by ChildObesity180.org, an organization dedicated to reversing the trend in childhood obesity.

The requirements were simple: Schools had to show a way they were encouraging students to move throughout the day. The school's program had to be creative, include all fitness levels and be easy to duplicate in other districts.

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Oregon bans Native American school mascots, images
The Oregon Board of Education has voted to ban Native American mascots at schools across Oregon.
May 18th, 2012
09:54 PM ET

Oregon bans Native American school mascots, images

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Public schools in Oregon must discontinue the use of Native American names, symbols or images as mascots following a State Board of Education vote.

Prohibited names include, "Redskins," "Savages," "Indians," "Indianettes," "Chiefs" and "Braves," the board said in a statement Thursday.

The board by a 5-1 vote adopted the rule and gave schools until July 2017 to comply.

"I do not believe any of our schools with Native American mascots intended to be disrespectful," state Superintendent Susan Castillo said in a statement. "Our role as educators needs to be to create a safe, supportive, and welcoming environment for all of our students — an environment which honors them for who they are as individuals with a rich and varied cultural history. We can no longer accept these stereotypical images for the sake of tradition — not when they are hurting our kids."

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