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American Press high school sports reporter Troy LaFleur.<br>

American Press high school sports reporter Troy LaFleur.

LaFleur Column: Make the penalty fit the crime

Last Modified: Thursday, September 12, 2013 2:21 PM

By Troy LaFleur / American Press

In 2013 college football fans have been subjected to an NFL-style rule enforcement. If a player leads with their helmet and to make a tackle, the referee can now determine the severity of the blow or the player’s intentions and officially eject the player who dealt the hit from the contest.

If said hit occurs in the second half of the game, the team will be forced to have that player sit out the first half of their next game due to suspension.

This rule change has not sat well with a large quantity of football fans across America as some find the penalty to be too harsh.

Indeed, player safety is an important topic through all levels of football and those with bad intentions deserve to be punished, but some would find a penalty or a simple ejection more suitable.

After all, its not like the players were physically fighting on the field. That is an offense that would be deemed more worthy of an ejection with an ensuing suspension, and that is exactly what Louisiana high school sports fans will be getting used to this year.

According to a rule change from the National Federation of State High School Associations , varsity athletes who partake in a physical altercation on the field will be ejected from the current game and will not be allowed to even set foot on school property during the next game. The athlete will also have to attend a meeting with his or her parents, the head coach and the principal of the school to discuss said actions before completing a course issued by the NFHA entitled “Sportsmanship-It’s Up to You.”

If the athlete commits the offense just one more time throughout the season they will not be allowed to compete in football for the remainder of the academic year.

Just as recently as Friday night, Southwest Louisiana saw four of its athletes fall victim to these new rules as they were ejected from their games for a variety of reasons. All will miss games this weekend.

Should these players, if they did indeed commit said offenses, be punished accordingly?

Absolutely.

In high school athletics there is no room for physical violence. That being said, there is no problem with athletes showing emotion and doing everything in their power to win, but a line must be drawn at some point.

For most of these athletes, high school football is a key role in the road to adulthood and many lessons can be learned through the sport. These 14-18 year old young men are being taught daily the value of teamwork, leadership and discipline.

Unfortunately, some lessons that these teenagers must learn aren’t in the form of enlightening experiences, but instead through punishment. They must learn that physical violence is not the answer to any conflict they are confronted with. I personally believe that self-defense is also important, but there are other answers than throwing a punch in the middle of a high school football game.

High school is one of the most influential times in a young man’s life and they should be taught that violence is never the answer.

Ejection from the current game is an absolute must. Suspension from the next contest is debatable since some infractions are more severe than others, but if you let the severity of punishment be swayed by opinion, you may only be presenting yourself with bigger problems.

So is there any flaw to the new system?

Yes, more than one.

In the NFL and NCAA, if a player is ejected or accused of an infraction, they are able to file an appeal to possibly retract the punishment. Time and again we have seen these appeals play out in the athlete’s favor.

In high school there is no appeal process. Instead, there will be cases where a player is wrongfully accused and punished anyway. This is the downfall of the human element in enforcing these rules at the prep level.

One of last week’s ejections, which will remain anonymous, was very suspect. A simple tussle for the ball at the end of the play was mistaken for one of the penalized players pushing his counterpart into the ground. After a further look, one would find that no rules were broken, but to the game official it may have appeared otherwise. This, however, is not the NFL where there are a half dozen cameras capturing the action and no one to plead your case to.

At some point a player with a questionable reputation for unsportsmanlike conduct who is currently carrying a prior offense will be presumed to have started a physical altercation and may end up missing the entirety of his senior season due to unfortunate circumstances.

It pains me to think that there may come a time when coaches are inserting underclassmen into a game to purposefully take advantage of a particular athlete’s temper in hopes of an ejection and suspension. Whether we wish to believe it or not, such behavior is exhibited in the game we love.

Take what you will from these new rules, but they are being implemented in hopes of evolving the game into what it should be, but like the NFL and NCAA, there is still a long way to go before they get it right.

• • •

Troy LaFleur covers high school athletics. Email him at tlafleur@americanpress.com

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