Records are made to be broken. Just not like this. Last week, Nate Haasis, a high school quarterback from Springfield, Ill., completed a 37-yd. pass to a teammate for the final touchdown of his career. Despite the seven points, Haasis’ throw wasn’t enough to get a W for his team – when it was all said and done, the Spartans lost, 42-20. What it did get him was the career passing record from the Central State Eight Conference.

Three days after the game was over, Haasis wrote a letter to conference officials asking that his name and the record he had earned be stricken from the record books. Through no fault of his own, Haasis hadn’t actually earned that record.

With only a minute remaining in the 17-year-old’s final game, his coach called a timeout, despite the game being well out of reach for the Spartans. Rather than huddling with his team, however, Southeast coach Neal Taylor could be seen huddling with the opposition’s coach, Cahokia’s Antwyne Golliday.

The result of the huddle was a deal that would secure the career conference passing record for Haasis: Southeast would allow Cahokia to score uncontested, and in exchange, Cahokia would let Haasis complete a 37-yard touchdown pass on the final play.

The record was not unexpected. Since the first games of the season, Haasis has been on pace to surpass all those quarterbacks who came before him. What nobody expected, however, was Haasis’ reaction to it.

“It is my belief,” Haasis wrote to officials, “that the directions given to us in the final seconds of this game were made in `the heat of battle’ and do not represent the values of the athletes of the Southeast football team. 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.”

Haasis did exactly what he should have done, and the sad truth of the matter is that everyone should have expected him to do just that. But nobody did, because it has become an accepted truth that sportsmanship – like chivalry – is dead. These days, there are more people who believe that Elvis lives than who think that sports are still just for sports’ sake.

Bargains like the one Taylor made with Golliday happen all the time, at every level of athletics, and it’s sad that it took a high school kid to stand up to them. Every one of these deals denigrates not only that particular record, but every record and every athlete. It demeans the very nature of sports. Yet athletes, both collegiate and professional, will use any method to get their names enshrined in that illustrious record book.

Two years ago, Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre allegedly took a sack, giving New York Giants defender Michael Strahan the single-season sack record. To this day, both players deny that the deal was arranged, perhaps because neither of them has the courage or integrity to do what Haasis did.

Five years ago, Nykesha Sales, then a star forward for the University of Connecticut Huskies, tore her Achilles’ tendon, sidelining her for the remainder of the season. Yet because of a deal between coaches, Sales hobbled out onto the court and opened the scoring for the Huskies with an uncontested layup. The two points gave Sales the school record for points in a career.

Sometimes it’s not even about the record. For some athletes it’s all about ego. In March, Ricky Davis, a forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers, went so far as to shoot at his own basket, missing intentionally, just to get the rebound. The board would have given Davis his first career triple-double.

Fans have come to accept – to expect, even – these athletes to bend the rules to the breaking point. It’s about time an athlete took a stand against it. The sad thing now is that these college and pro athletes have a lot to look up to in this 17-year-old high school quarterback.

There’s a lot that Nate Haasis didn’t say in his letter, and there’s a lot that is said about Nate Haasis by the very fact that he wrote it. He said he plays for himself and for his team, not for any records and not for any numbers.

The same hand that threw that 37-yarder later picked up a pen and reminded all of us of the integrity we should expect from athletes at all levels. I would like to shake that hand, not for the passes Haasis threw, but for the letter he had the courage, morality and integrity to write.

Nate Haasis belongs in the Central State Eight Conference record book, because in a way, he did break a record. Athletes and coaches at all levels have a long track record of relinquishing integrity in favor of seeing their names in print.

Nate Haasis single-handedly shattered this record.

Derek Richmond can be reached at THE W appears every Tuesday.

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