Rule on fighting needs some work

SIDELINES

November 28, 1993|By PAT O'MALLEY

There is a Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association rule that has to be amended. The rule that prohibits players ejected for fighting from playing the next game needs to be more flexible.

For the second year in a row, a player has been deprived of competing in the game of his life -- the state football championship game.

Southern junior two-way lineman Philip Brown was ejected from the team's 43-24 semifinal victory over Dunbar and as a result was not allowed to play the next game.

Brown and one of the Poets got into a a mild push-and-shove scuffle with less than two minutes left in the game. The officials who intervened ejected both players. According to state rules that means sitting out the next game, which in Brown's case was yesterday's state-title game.

Did the officials overreact and not use good judgment? Maybe.

Has history repeated itself? Yes.

Last fall in the North County-Crossland Class 4A semifinal, the Knights' Jarryn Avery and Crossland's top running back, Lawrence Stukes, were tossed for fighting.

I was standing on the sidelines just yards away from the incident, and it wasn't that big a deal. I thought the officials overreacted by ejecting both players, considering the ramifications. I've seen worse altercations with no ejections because it's a judgment call that each official could see in a different way.

Crossland won the game, 27-0, but without Stukes dropped the 4A title game to Gaithersburg, 39-21.

Before the start of the '93 season, I brought up the Avery case and wondered whether he would have to sit out the season opener. County coordinator Rick Wiles told North County coach Chuck Markiewicz that it was OK for Avery to play.

So, in effect, Avery, whose team was eliminated by Crossland, received no penalty except coming out of the game. There was a slim possibility that Avery would have to sit out the first playoff game of '93 if the Knights qualified for postseason again.

North County did qualify, but Avery's status never came up. The MPSSAA overlooked it and Avery played all 11 games.

Brown had one game left, but the Dunbar player's season was over. It's not a matter of who's right or wrong, but rather what's fair.

The intent of such a rule is a good one, but there should be more flexibility. We can't condone fighting, but in football, pushing and shoving is part of the game and often times officials will separate the two players and warn them.

We need to amend the rule so that when a player is ejected for typical football roughhousing, the officials will decide afterward if it was flagrant enough to warrant a suspension from the next game.

The officials either could recommend a one-game suspension (that would carry into the following season) if the incident was serious enough or, in the case of tempers flaring momentarily, no additional penalty. The ejection can be penalty enough, but tacking on another game can be too harsh.

Too often, players on the short end of a rout lose control and vent their frustrations on their opponent.It's not fair that players who may only be experiencing a natural, human reaction to unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike conduct be penalized further.

It may be too much to ask officials to use proper discretion when a scuffle occurs, but I don't think it's too much to ask them to review what happened and decide if further action need be taken. I think the officials and MPSSAA would find that ejection has the necessary impact more often than not.

Right now the rule lacks discretion and is too cut and dried. It is not sensitive to the player who might only be defending himself.

It's never enough

Southern 20-year football coach Buck Gardner learned long ago that you can satisfy some of the people some of the time, but not all the people all the time.

After Gardner's Bulldogs commenced the greatest season in Southern football history by outscoring their opponents 123-0 in the first three games, they were scored on in Game 4.

"We gave up our first touchdown and some guy yelled down to me, 'Hey, Buck, when are you going to get your defense together?' " said Gardner. "You can't please them all."

Wasn't the addition of Southern grad Pete Medhurst to the Bulldogs' staff a critical move in the team's banner season?

Navy wins on the ice

Did you know that the Navy ice hockey team bounced back from its first loss -- 7-3 to West Virginia last weekend -- to rout archrival Maryland, 8-1, last Sunday?

Led by Brian Erickson's hat trick, coach Jim Barry's Mids (5-1) scored five goals in the final period. Goalie Sam DeCastro had 12 saves for the Mids, who will be home at 7 p.m. Friday at Dahlgren Hall against West Chester (Pa.).

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