Blast's Wittman banned two years

Coach's suspension extended by MISL


The Major Indoor Soccer League handed down the stiffest penalty in its history yesterday when it extended the suspension of Blast coach Tim Wittman for two more years and fined him an undisclosed amount.

League officials had already suspended Wittman for the rest of this season two days after the March 18 incident at the end of a Blast-California Cougars game in Stockton, Calif. Wittman allegedly had physical contact with senior game referee Terry Mashino and penalty box attendant Rob Planette at game's end.

Wittman was arrested on battery charges and then released on his own recognizance at the site that night. He was scheduled to have a hearing on the charges yesterday in California but said he hadn't gotten word on what happened there as of last night.

The MISL released a statement yesterday saying that its disciplinary committee lengthened Wittman's suspension through the 2007-08 season.

League commissioner Steve Ryan said the committee felt the facts were compelling despite the absence of video. Ryan said the committee spoke with everyone involved in the incident, including Wittman.

"It's a difficult situation," Ryan said. "It's unfortunate, and it's unprecedented, too. The league cannot allow and will not allow coaches or players to exhibit that kind of and that level of behavior."

Blast operator/investor Ed Hale said the team must move ahead. Danny Kelly has served as player-interim coach for the Blast, which advanced Sunday night to the MISL championship round for the third time in four years.

The best-of-two series against the St. Louis Steamers - with a "golden goal" overtime format again serving as the tiebreaker - will be Friday night at 1st Mariner Arena and Sunday afternoon in St. Louis.

"I've just been trying to get my team together along with Kevin [Healey, general manager] so we can give a good accounting of ourselves in the playoffs," Hale said. "I'm sorry for what's happened to Timmy. Once this happened, this was beyond our control."

Wittman remained upset about how the league has treated him.

"Was I surprised? Absolutely," he said. "There's a reason they want me out. This is what has happened, and so be it. It's unfair ... and I think it's not right."

Wittman said he felt league officials discounted the reason for his anger, saying that he was simply a coach standing up for his belief that his team wasn't being treated right by the officials.

"I'd rather be broke and without a place to coach than cheat, lie or not have a backbone," Wittman said. "They are skipping over the whole point of why I reacted the way I did."

Hale said the team's coaching situation would be discussed at season's end. But he wouldn't close the door on Wittman's future involvement with the franchise.

"We'll see what happens in two years," Hale said. "I'd like to talk to him about doing something with the team. He's always been a part of Baltimore soccer. I think it's only fair."

For now, Wittman said he'll probably work with youth teams or help train athletes or teams. He's married with two children and has a number of business interests in the area.

He is banned from contact with Blast players, so he's been trying to follow their season mostly on the radio.

"I'm with these guys 100 percent," said Wittman, who coached the Blast to the MISL title in the 2003-04 season. "I feel good about their chances against St. Louis."

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