When the Steubenville rape trial wrapped, there was tons of speculation regarding how the adults involved would be punished. It had already been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the teenagers who were accused of raping a young girl were in fact guilty, but what about the adults who allegedly helped them cover up the crime?
An interesting bit of information that emerged during court proceedings was this text message sent by one of the accused rapists, Trent Mays, about how he expected school officials to help him get clear of all charges.
“I got Reno. He took care of it and s**t ain’t gonna happen, even if they did take it to court. Like he was joking about it so I’m not worried,” the youngster boasted to a friend.
The ‘Reno’ he referred to there was Reno Saccocia, head coach of the Steubenville High School football team. It was he, according to anyone and everyone you ask, who helped create the aura of invincibility around his players that allowed a precious few of them to think they could get away with any crime – no matter how egregious.
To date, no active player who participated in the incident, regardless of whether it was as an observer or something more serious, has been punished. Couple that with the fact that Saccocia once famously threatened a reporter who was asking too many questions (“You’re going to get yours. And if you don’t get yours, somebody close to you will.”), and you can see why some thought that maybe a coaching change was in order.
Apparently school officials didn't, though.
Barry Petchesky of Deadspin once surmised why Saccocia would probably never be fired in a piece entitled, Fire This A**hole:
“Reno Saccoccia is a local legend, in the way that 30-year coaches of football powerhouses in economically depressed Ohio Valley towns tend to be legends. He's in the Ohio Coaches Hall of Fame. He's won three state titles. When Saccoccia won his 300th game last year, a sellout crowd of more than 10,000 people packed Harding Stadium—christened 'Reno Field' in 2007—and chanted Reno, Reno, Reno’ as he left the field.”
And local legends, of course, are infallible – especially when their only crime is standing by and watching as their players do whatever they want (read: rape 16-year-old girls with no remorse) in a town that worships them without ever having to face any consequences.
In the days following the Steubenville verdict, there was a bit of chatter, particularly in pieces like Petchesky’s, about maybe Saccocia and others of his ilk having to pay for, at best, the irresponsible way they oversaw their kids/at worst, allegedly attempting to cover up sexual assault. The lack of action from all officials involved spoke volumes about what direction they were heading in, though. There would be no punishment. They would wait it out, grit their teeth through the bad publicity, and hope for a new scandal to distract the nation.
Make what you will of the timing, but this weekend Ohio Valley's Herald Star newspaper (by way of Salon) announced that: “…Reno Saccoccia, director of administrative services…” was getting a two-year contract extension. In an interview with the Atlantic, superintendent Mike McVey tried to justify the move.
"Coaching contracts are different from teaching and administrative contracts," he said, pointing out that this wasn’t a coaching extension.
And while that very well may be true – it’s still an extension. It’s still an agreement, between coach and school, to prolong the amount of time he will spend there. It’s an endorsement of everything Saccoccia has done up to now, and everything he will do from this point moving forward. It’s embarrassing in every possible way, really. And yet, sadly, it’s also pretty much in line with what we’ve come to expect in situations like this.