Gary Smith tells the story of Chardon’s tragedy and the town’s reluctant hero—Frank Hall
What will I do when a student pulls out a gun and starts shooting? It is a question educators must ask themselves. For Frank Hall, anger trumped everything, trampling thought and fear when on Feb. 27, 2012, a 17-year-old left three kids dying of gunshot wounds in the cafeteria of Chardon High School in Ohio. If not for the courage of Hall, a beloved assistant football coach who chased the killer out of the school and then returned to comfort the dying boys, many more lives would have been lost. For the first time since the tragedy, Hall opens up for an exclusive cover story by award-winning writer Gary Smith in this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.
Smith takes readers through that frightful day in a small town 30 miles outside Cleveland, and the journey of the community and its reluctant hero since the tragedy. “In a flash, Frank had determined that attack was the best defense, the only way to be who Frank Ray Hall always had been: the protector.” (PAGE 74)
The community’s gratitude for Hall, who was known around school as Mr. Tickle, was overwhelming—as was the grief that overtook him. He was racked with intense and debilitating remorse. Smith says, “The day after a man does the most selfless thing a human being can do, and then doubles down by rejecting a flood of national media requests … his mind begins to devour him for what he couldn’t do. You should’ve spotted that kid beforehand….You should’ve done more….” (PAGE 76)
The toxic drip in his mind didn’t stop until a trip last summer with his wife and four adopted children ( to the USS Intrepid in New York City. A movie on the historic vessel described how a World War II attack on the ship that killed 69 men was the worst day in the Intrepid’s history, and the best day since the survivors saved the ship and helped turn the tide of the war. Smith writes, “That’s just what happened at Chardon, it struck him. We got attacked, but we didn’t let that kid pull us apart or break us down. It was our worst day, and our best day.” (PAGE 78)
After a successful football season for Chardon and more time to heal, Hall made the difficult decision this past March to take the head football coach position at nearby Lakeside High in Ashtabula—the school that Frank’s alma mater, Harbor High, had merged with after closing in 2001. Ashtabula, stricken with poverty and little hope, needed Hall too. Four times as many players as last year showed up for off-season workouts for the football team which was 2-28 over the last 3 seasons, and 30 people showed up for the first booster meeting.
Hall’s journey also had him raise a controversial question to the men in his extended family—who are avid hunters. “Why does anyone need a semiautomatic weapon?” Hall asked one day at a gathering. “You can’t convince me that a civilian needs a weapon like that with all those bullets in a clip.” (PAGE 77)
More than a year later, Smith asks: Do you remember Chardon? Rob Cox, the cofounder of a nonprofit to help people affected by the massacre in Newtown, Ct., asked Newtown residents if they remembered the tragedy in Chardon. He was mortified that nobody recalled it. Smith says, “Which meant the clock was already ticking in the land of amnesia. How long before Newtown, too, was gone.” (PAGE 78)
Last week, basketball Hall of Famer Julius “Dr. J” Erving made a house call to SI’s offices in New York City to join the set of SI.com’s new live daily show SI Now. To view clips from his appearance, click here. While in our offices, he also sat down with SI and reflected on iconic photographs from his playing career. His behind-the-scenes commentary on these photos ran as part of a six-page spread in this week’s Sports Illustrated.
Inside Sports Illustrated sat down with SI senior editor Mark Bechtel, who was in the room with Erving as he talked about the photos, to find out what it was like to see a legend reflect on these images.
What inspired SI to include a spread such as the one in this weeks’ issue?
Bechtel: Sometimes great stories just fall into your lap. Julius was coming into the office to be a guest on our SI Now web show. He was making the rounds to help promote the NBA TV documentary about him. The idea for the pictures came up in a discussion with our managing editor, Chris Stone, and Andy Gray, who’s one of our web producers. I think Andy brought it up first, and it just grew from there. We knew he was going to be here for an hour and that the show would only last 30 minutes, so that gave us plenty of time to sit down with him.
What strategy did SI use when selecting these photos since there had to be so many great ones to choose from?
Bechtel: It really is shocking how many great pictures there are. Personally, I love candid shots, and back in the 1970s athletes were far more likely to let photographers into their lives. The access was so much better. We looked at pictures of Julius with his mom, in his house, walking into the arena. Some of the picks were no-brainers. When we saw the one of him striding into the Nassau Coliseum in a white linen outfit and a pair of Italian-heeled shoes, with this giant afro, everyone immediately said, “We’ve got to take that one.” That said, we didn’t want to go with strictly off-the-court stuff. We wanted a work in come iconic action shots—like his dunk from the free throw line in the ABA dunk contest and his reverse layup against the Lakers in the Finals. In the end, I think we got a pretty good mix.
What was it like watching Dr. J reflect on these photos? Describe his emotion.
Bechtel: It was incredible. It was so much cooler than just a normal question-and-answer interview. I didn’t do a whole lot of work. I just showed him the pictures, guided the conversation and then just let him talk, and he’s a terrific talker. He has a great memory. I showed him a picture of himself from when he was in college at UMass. They were playing against Fordham, and he remembered a play in which the point guard threw the ball up into the crowd. Then he corrected himself and said, “No, that was when we played at Fordham the year before.” He also knew right off the bat where one of his teammates in the picture went to high school. It was impressive. He had an interesting anecdote for each one. I had no idea that he was in China preaching to kids on the sly in 1982 when the Sixers acquired Moses Malone. I think he was enjoying himself.
What seemed to be the photograph Dr. J had the strongest reaction to?
Bechtel: There was a picture of him and his late mother in her house on Long Island from 1973 or ’74. Unfortunately it got cut from the piece for space. It was taken in a time when there were no digital cameras or iPhones, so it’s not like Erving had a ton of pictures of him and his mom from that era. It was just a really nice shot, and he seemed genuinely happy to be looking at it.
Did he have a particular favorite of himself? What was your favorite?
Bechtel: I’m not sure what his favorite was. He seemed to get a kick out of all of them. My personal favorite is the one outside the arena. It’s such a ‘70s scene. And his riff on the picture was great. He broke down his outfit then launched into a discourse on who had the best afro and why Artis Gilmore’s ‘fro wasn’t as stylish as it could have been. Turns out his hair was too fine. How Dr. J remembers this is a mystery to me, but I’m glad he did.
Were there any photos Dr. J felt should have been included that weren’t?
Bechtel: He didn’t mention any. Though one of the first things he said was, “You don’t have a picture of me and Larry Bird choking each other in there, do you?” And I said, “As a matter of fact, it’s number 6 on my list.” He said, “You can take that right out.” I showed him another picture instead—he was dunking over Bird. He had no problem talking about that one.
How do you think Dr. J fans and SI readers will react to this spread?
Bechtel: I can’t imagine a basketball fan not wanting to read this. If it were just pictures it would be a great read, but when you throw in Erving telling great stories it becomes essential.
What else can you tell us about the experience of sharing this moment of reflection with Dr. J?
Bechtel: It’s not every day you get to sit with an icon and listen to them talk about the very moments that made them an icon. It’d be like listening to Paul McCartney talk about songwriting.
With the Miami Heat trailing two games to one against the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals, the team’s championship hopes and dynastic ambitions have come to hinge on Dwayne Wade’s injured knee says senior writer S.L. Price in this week’s SI. While Wade’s injury has contributed to slowing down the Heat’s momentum since entering the finals last week, Price finds that Wade’s strength throughout his life during personal issues has enabled him to play through extreme pain. However tough he is, his production needs to improve if the Heat have a chance.
“I can feel for him, but I can’t really understand what he’s going through. You appreciate when someone puts their body on the line each and every night when they’re not even close to 100 percent” says teammate LeBron James (PAGE 48).
The seemingly unstoppable and energetic Wade’s scoring average has plummeted since suffering a deep bone bruise against Orlando on March 6. His focus has shifted to hours of treatment before and after each game. Although uncertainty lingers about Wade’s performance, the player finds comfort from his mother, Jolinda Wade, praying for his knee. During the second-round playoff series against the Chicago Bulls, Wade yelled to his mom, “Ma! Come and touch my knee and pray on it” (PAGE 48), which she continued to do throughout the Eastern Conference finals.
“People don’t understand the pain that he’s experiencing… but he doesn’t let it stop him. He understands that the body he’s playing in now is not the body that he played in when he came to the league,” says Wade’s mother Jolinda (PAGE 49).
Aside from his injury, Wade also has been dealing with personal and legal issues surrounding his divorce during this year’s postseason play. His spirits, however, remain positive with everything he is going through. “Me, the last couple days I’ve been coming in, get my work in that I need to, and the last two games that I’ve stepped on the court, I felt better physically… Hopefully I can continue” (PAGE 49).
Wade’s injured body leads to another concern for the Heat after the finals: The possible break-up of the ‘Big Three.’ Lebron James can opt out of his contract with Miami and become a free agent after next season. Price concludes “the state of Wade’s knees figures to be a heavy factor in whether LeBron stays or ends up somewhere else next year” (PAGE 50).
In this week’s issue, SI’s Brian Cazeneueve takes a look at the Boston Bruins’ unlikely road to the Stanley Cup Final after their near loss in the first round. After squandering a 3-1 series lead to the Maple Leafs, the Bruins found themselves trailing Toronto 4-1 with 14:31 left in the third period of game seven. But when Milan Lucic found an open Nathan Horton in front of the goal, the Bruins brought the score to 4-2 with 10:42 to play. A shift in momentum and confidence would inevitably allow the Bruins to become the first team in NHL history to rally from a three goal deficit in the third period to win a game seven.
“They’re a team that waits for your mistakes,” said the Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby after being swept in the Eastern Conference Finals by the surging Bruins. “There are times when they possess the puck. It doesn’t mean they’re carrying the play. They’re just patient. We were trying to get three goals back on one shift. You can’t do that against a team that thrives on your mistakes.” (PAGE 44)
Also in this week’s issue, Pierre McGuire breaks down the keys to a Stanley Cup victory for the Bruins and Blackhawks and Cazeneueve predicts the Bruins to take the cup in grueling seven game series.
SI Special Report – How the NCAA’s Mishandling of the Miami Case Exposed an Enforcement Department Seemingly Powerless To Do Its JobPosted: June 12, 2013
After months of interviews with current and former NCAA staffers, as well as with convicted felon and former notorious University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, a special report entitled “The Institution Has Lost Control” in this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED by senior writers Pete Thamel and Alexander Wolff exposes a fractured NCAA enforcement department seemingly powerless to do its job—despite recent efforts.
“People are questioning the need and effectiveness of an enforcement staff in general,” says former NCAA enforcement rep Abigail Grantstein, “to the point that I wonder if the membership will say we don’t want it.” (PAGE 65) “The time is ripe to cheat,” adds an ex-enforcement staffer. “There’s no policing going on.” (PAGE 66)
Shapiro, whose initial allegations that he supplied improper benefits to more than 100 Miami football and basketball players between 2002 and ‘10 came to light and was mostly corroborated in an August 2011 Yahoo! Sports report, now claims that he used inside information from Hurricanes players, coaches and athletic department staffers to win bets on 23 Miami football games between 2003 and ’09. Shapiro supplied SI with financial statements and bank records from 2005 to ’08 that show dozens of five- and six-figure sums moving from Shapiro’s entities to Adam Meyer’s during the college football season. Meyer is the operator of a handicapping website AdamWins.com. Meyer’s lawyer, Joel Hirschhorn, told SI that Meyer would place bets for Shapiro when his client was in Las Vegas.
An example of Shapiro’s new claims: He told SI that several days before favored Miami lost 19-16 to N.C. State on Nov. 3, 2007, he learned from a coach that quarterback Kyle Wright would be benched due to a bad knee and ankle. Shapiro said he got his bet in before the benching became public, and the line moved from 13 points to 11. Records show that six days after the game, nine wires moved $1.18 million from one Shapiro business to another. Shapiro claims it was all money from the N.C. State game.
This week the NCAA committee on infractions will hear the Miami case, but Shapiro says his gambling accusations won’t be a part of it. E-mails from earlier this year obtained by SI between Shapiro and an NCAA investigator make it clear that Shapiro wouldn’t consent to an interview with the NCAA to discuss his gambling on Miami games after the NCAA balked at paying for his attorney to attend the interview.
In addition to Shapiro’s claims, the SI report found that policies under NCAA president Mark Emmert since he took office in October 2010 have resulted in an atmosphere of instability, distrust and tension in the NCAA enforcement division. Among the findings: New performance metrics pressure NCAA investigators to try to solve cases more quickly; Emmert’s public comments on ongoing cases has disheartened staffers; and college presidents have more direct access with Emmert to discuss cases involving their schools. All of this has led to a staff reluctant to be aggressive on high profile cases.
Included in the SI report:
- Rich Johanningmeier, one of two NCAA enforcement reps originally assigned to the Miami case, retired in the middle of the investigation last spring. He told SI that he had found Shapiro to be substantially truthful and is taken aback by the interest college presidents, such as Miami president Donna Shalala, express in active investigations. Johanningmeier also noted how much more involved Emmert was than his predecessors. Johanningmeier says, “You were more aware that there was an interest from the [NCAA] president’s office in the cases than in the past.” (PAGE 63)
- Emmert’s No. 2, Jim Isch, began judging all NCAA departments with performance metrics, including an expectation that no investigation would take more than 12 months. Johanningmeier says he considered the Miami case to be a two-year undertaking.
- Shortly after being fired last spring for contracting with Shapiro attorney Maria Elena Perez to pose questions to witnesses who would not cooperate with the NCAA, Ameen Najjar, the other NCAA enforcement rep initially assigned to the case, sent Shapiro an e-mail that said his superiors “simply want to get the case done, even if it is half or only one quarter done. I don’t know if it is simply to meet some arbitrary time line or the upper levels are trying to save Miami. I suspect it’s the latter.” (PAGE 63)
- In 2011 the NCAA introduced a new enforcement model that assigned multiple staffers to one investigation. “One of the strong points under the old system was that we had a person who knew a case inside out,” Johanningmeier says. “With ownership comes responsibility. These were no longer your cases. They were team cases.” (PAGE 65) Former enforcement chief Julie Lach claims the new approach was effective and led to a speedier resolution in the case against Ohio State and coach Jim Tressel.
- Controversial episodes beyond the Miami case also disheartened enforcement employees. The NCAA abandoned a recruiting violation case against UCLA basketball player Shabazz Muhammad after the boyfriend of Grantstein was overheard boasting on a plane that the NCAA would find violations. Additionally, the NCAA’s harsh punishment of Penn State after the Jerry Sandusky scandal was regarded as overreach by many NCAA staffers, especially since the enforcement division never conducted an investigation.
Visit SI.com later today to read Pete Thamel’s take on the ineptitude of the NCAA enforcement process and Alexander Wolff’s intimate look at what it was like interviewing Shapiro through a series of jailhouse interviews.