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Sportsmanship? What sportsmanship?

December 2, 2010

The West Virginia Class AAA state football tournament is a mess because a whole bunch of players forgot about sportsmanship and their mentors apparently just don't seem to care.

Regardless of whether the fight following the South Charleston/Hurricane quarterfinal game was provoked by a Hurricane player or players, the video of that altercation shows practically the entire South Charleston team on the field throwing punches, pushing and shoving.

After every football game that I have covered during the past 15 years, the teams paraded to the middle of the field, shook hands and said "nice game" or something to that effect. Probably a lot of them didn't want to perform that act of sportsmanship, but they did it.

Think about it a minute. If South Charleston wins the lawsuit that apparently, now, is going to the West Virginia Supreme Court, it will be possible to have a free-for-all after the any game and not only in football, but any high school athletic contest held in West Virginia. Forget the handshakes. Forget the sportsmanship.

Is there no shame in South Charleston? Is there no shame in the Kanawha County courtroom? Is there no shame anywhere anymore?

I thought that school officials, the board of education, superintendent, principal, faculty, coaches, all promoted good sportsmanship. I thought that was the primary reason that schools participate in athletics.

Sportsmanship - ha!

Apparently, I am naive. At least I am where South Charleston is concerned.

In my world. In my way of thinking. In the way I would have handled that situation were I anyone with authority in South Charleston, the shame from my players not showing sportsmanship (and apparently not learning what sportsmanship is all about) would have caused me to keep those suspended players out of that game with Brooke regardless of what some apparently biased judge rules. The judge didn't rule that South Charleston players are required to play in the semifinal game against Brooke, she just ruled that the five suspended players could play if the school administration and coaches wanted to put them into the game.

Who knows, South Charleston may have won the game anyway without those guys.

Aren't those in charge at South Charleston ashamed? Do you want that caliber of players representing you? Apparently a state championship is more important to them than teaching - teaching their kids how to be good sports and how to abide by the rules.

Oh, the injunction that allowed the suspended players from South Charleston to play in last week's semifinal game with Brooke was sought by the parents. Has anyone from the South Charleston administration even suggested that the lawsuit should not have been filed? That they wanted no part of it. That the court ruling goes against the regulations established by the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Committee of which they are a member.

And just because a Kanawha County judge, who must be a South Charleston grad, decided in court that the players can ignore the edict from the governing body of all West Virginia schools, does that mean that those in the South Charleston administration can't impose their own penalties against kids brawling at a school-sponsored football game. I know that if I was the principal at South Charleston High School, heck, even if I was the coach, those players would not have dressed for the Brooke game.

Remember, nearly all the public schools and most of the private schools in West Virginia are members of the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Committee. They are bound by the local rules that are imposed by this organization and also are bound by the rules set down by the National Federation of State High School Associations, a nationwide organization that governs high school sports.

I'm a registered official in West Virginia with authorization from the WVSSAC to officiate. In the sports that I officiate, the officials' jurisdiction begins when the official enters the field of play and ends when the official leaves that field after the contest is over.

That is clearly stated in the rule books of the sports that I officiate, which are distributed by the NFHS, through the WVSSAC. I have to assume that is the same in football.

As I wrote above, if that isn't the case, then it is open season for teams to fight each other after the game is over.

I have another question about this case swimming around in my head.

Why didn't the WVSSAC enter the picture immediately after the lawsuit was filed? I believe I read an article where the WVSSAC chief said he was even not aware there was a lawsuit until after the judge had made the ruling.

The WVSSAC is not entirely governed by one man.

They have a board of directors comprised of high school principals from throughout the state.

Why wasn't a meeting of this board called immediately after the Kanawha judge's ruling? A meeting that required mandatory attendance, by the way.

Does this board not have the power to impose sanctions or penalties against South Charleston High School for violating a policy that the school agreed to abide by regardless of whether a judge imposed an injunction that negated the WVSSAC's rules? The NCAA imposes penalties on schools for violating rules. Am I wrong saying that those are similar?

I would think that the WVSSAC board has the authority to go so far as to kick South Charleston out of the organization if they don't follow state rules, which they, as a member, agreed to abide by.

The WVSSAC suspended only five South Charleston players for fighting, but one of the officials on the field said he had the numbers of 28 that were involved.

I thought it was humorous that the official testified that his answer to a question about why all 28 players weren't recommended for suspension is that "there wasn't room on the form to list all of them."

Apparently, it never occurred to him that he could attach another sheet of paper to the form listing the other 23 players.

And what about poor Martinsburg? They're left hanging without an opponent. They apparently did everything within the rules.

Or what about Brooke? Likewise, they apparently abided by the rules.

Certainly, these schools don't want to give the impression that a state football championship means so much to them that they will file law suits and do whatever it takes to win, but Brooke and Martinsburg have become the victims of South Charleston's indiscretions.

And that's what happens too often in this current world of ours. Innocent people suffer when others break the law. Now that might be a lessen the South Charleston administration could add to the curriculum.

Again I ask, is there no shame in South Charleston?

(Cox, a resident of Weirton, is a sports correspondent for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)

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