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Haga saga has people speaking their minds

There are a lot of opinions out there about Greg Haga, the Crater wrestling coach who was suspended for the rest of this year and next season for several violations.

The majority seem to be in support of the longtime, successful coach for his character and positive impact on so many kids. Some denigrate him for willfully violating a rule in a meaningless tournament as a reward for a kid who got his act together in school and paid his own way to what amounted to a vacation in Hawaii.

I'm with the legions who think Haga should have used better judgment. Coaches should teach right from wrong. I get that. But I also think his dignity and character are taking a hit far greater than is deserved. You can read what's being said on our message board at www.varsity541.com. At last count, there were 47 posts.

We've also gotten quite a few e-mails.

One was critical of our reporter, Luke Andrews, who wrote the Page 1A story. He was fair and balanced and did the job that was expected of him. He has no agenda with Haga or Crater or anyone else. He also had nothing to do with the story being placed on Page 1A, a position which, I guess, suggests Haga is a criminal.

I don't see it that way. It's been said Haga is an institution, and that seems correct. We have two coaches whose teams have dominated Southern Oregon and have been forces at the state level for about two decades: Haga and South Medford boys basketball coach Dennis Murphy.

For Haga to be hit with sanctions more severe than any we'd encountered, yeah, it was big news. We weren't out to "ridicule and discredit" Haga, as one e-mail said. Then again, it's not our first brush with a kill-the-messenger mentality, either. Comes with the territory.

The story wound up on Page 1A thusly: The news side came over to us and asked if the story should run on the front. Other editors thought it should. I didn't necessarily want to give it up because, frankly, it would have made our section much stronger. The big news of the day does that. It's common sense.

That's also the reason it deserved to be on 1A. No other local story came through the newsroom Tuesday that made jaws hit the floor. For the record, we've had other sports stories on the front, even if it rarely happens.

As for the reaction to the punishment of Haga and Crater, it's not as black-and-white as some suggest. Once a cheater always a cheater? That's a ridiculous, narrow-minded assessment of Haga and his body of work.

Statements like that are made from afar. Please, read what those say who have spent time with the man. Or, whose kids have in some way been shaped into upstanding citizens because of Haga's contribution.

They're the ones who know.

Myself, I feel for Haga. That's no revelation. A great many people do. I can only imagine what he and his family are going through. You don't pour your heart and soul into something for as long as he did and have it ripped from you without devastating effect.

He's a tough guy. I think he'll get through this. But it's going to leave a mark.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com