American Press sports reporter Rhett Manuel.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 10:14 PM
Louisiana’s officials have a problem.
It’s not a major one by any means. Officials are probably just doing their jobs as instructed.
It’s also easily correctable. That is, if the proper parties actually want to correct it.
The problem has to do with ejections.
No, no, I’m not saying we should do away with them and let anarchy reign on our high school gridirons.
What I am saying is that I’ve seen more ejections than I ever have in years past and, in my opinion, some of those ejections could’ve been avoided.
According to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association handbook, Section 5.11.6, “A player shall receive an official warning from the school for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and have to take a sportsmanship course within three days of the offense. On the player’s second offense, the player is ejected and automatically suspended for the school’s next game in that sport.”
Again, I have no problem with that. Rules are rules and it’s the officials’ job to enforce them to the best of their abilities.
Some of those ejections were surely justified. However in the case of ejections or suspensions, I would think the infraction would need to be very blatant.
Some would call this form of justice “proactive.” If you eject the kid before there’s a major problem then it’s presumably a cleaner game, right?
Maybe. But here me out. A couple weeks ago, I saw a kid ejected in the very first series of Barbe’s game at New Iberia.
That kid was forced to sit the entire game and, by the law’s letter, would be suspended the next game. That amounts to a two-game suspension for what, frankly, wasn’t a noticeable penalty from the stands and press box.
So, I think there needs to be some changes. What I give you is a modest proposal to give each possible ejection a human element.
The rule, as currently constructed, somewhat handcuffs officials from making the best decisions they possibly can.
By the letter of the law, all unsportsmanlike penalties are created equally. But if we use common sense, that simply isn’t the case. I don’t think a little jawing, some shoving amongst players or a touchdown celebration is the same thing as punches or kicks being thrown.
Let’s be honest, they aren’t. Nor will they ever be.
The flag is there for a reason, to penalize teams for illegal actions during a game. That shouldn’t be the lone penalty, but it’s a start.
The punishment should fit the crime. That’s why I’m proposing something of a tiered system for unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Let’s bring common sense back into the equation.
So with that in mind I propose the following:
• For excessive celebration or taunting, let’s flag a team for 15 yards and give sideline warnings. End of story.
• For a shoving match, both teams are flagged but the instigator is ejected and the retaliating party warned. I would think this would be a strong deterrent for shoving.
• In the case of fist fights, both players are immediately ejected without question. The tape is then sent to the LHSAA, at the home school’s expense, for further review.
Maybe it’s a bit more work for all parties involved. But perhaps this way, the LHSAA cuts down on the excessive ejections. Perhaps players and coaches police themselves a bit better as well.
I’m all about making sure our young people play with class and sportsmanship. I’m also afraid the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.
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Rhett Manuel covers high school sports for the American Press. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org