Wrong on-field moves beg for right response

ON HIGH SCHOOLS

November 10, 2006|By MILTON KENT

Mike Williams probably has seen more game tape this week than in all his years as a coach, and it's still not enough for Williams, Howard County's athletics coordinator, to render a final judgment on what happened at the Centennial-Oakland Mills football game last Friday.

That's why no punishment has been decided on in conjunction with the incident. And Williams said, there may not be one, as the stories that have emerged from nearly six days of questioning have conflicted.

"No matter what we do as a system, there's going to be somebody who doesn't like it [the prospective decision]," Williams said. "We know that, so we're going to make sure what we come to is a fair and just decision. That's our goal. We're taking our time because we want to be fair and just."

The Centennial-Oakland Mills dust-up was, by all accounts, ugly, with coaches supposedly warning referees to get control of the game or people would get hurt.

By the second half, the personal fouls for unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct were coming so fast and furiously that officials took the extraordinary step of stopping the game with Centennial leading 44-0. The stands were cleared one school at a time to prevent a full-out brawl from igniting.

Williams said he has spent a large part of each day since investigating the matter, speaking with coaches and players from both schools, as well as security personnel. He and other school officials will make recommendations that will find their way up the chain of command to Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin, who will make the final decision.

What happened last Friday night was just the latest in what feels like a never-ending series of boys and girls gone wild on playing fields, on all level of sports.

NBA commissioner David Stern has taken a lot of heat from players, coaches and media members for instituting a virtual no-tolerance policy this season on player and coach reaction to officials' calls.

Truth be told, we all ought to be saluting Stern for being the first major sports official to take a stand about the conduct of his players, in the hope that his moves will have a trickle-down effect to colleges and high schools.

We can already see how the other stuff - the screaming after dunks, Rasheed Wallace's wide-open mouth and grimacing face after every called foul - has made its way to the basketball court. Thankfully, Stern has taken note and the hope is that the message of good sportsmanship makes it all the way down to the recreational leagues.

Remarkably, the leaders of football, the nation's most popular sport, have been eerily silent on the myriad incidents of misconduct that have cropped up just this season.

Save for a five-game suspension to Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth for cleating a Dallas Cowboys lineman in the head, newly installed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hasn't done much to stem the tide of obnoxiousness in his sport.

Just this week, Goodell whiffed badly on punishing Oakland Raiders defensive lineman Tyler Brayton for kneeing Seattle Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens during Monday night's game and Stevens for inciting the attack. Brayton was fined $25,000 and Stevens was docked $15,000, when each should have been fined at least twice that and Brayton should have been suspended a game.

And how did Cowboys coach Bill Parcells allow the recalcitrant Terrell Owens to get away with not only pulling that stunt on the field where he pretended to fall asleep lying on the football in the end zone after scoring a touchdown, but also yelling at the coach during the game without some kind of punishment?

Far worse in leniency were University of Miami president Donna Shalala and Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford, who let almost all of the Hurricanes who were involved in the ugly Oct. 14 fracas off the hook. True, Anthony Reddick was suspended indefinitely for swinging his helmet, but most of the rest of the involved players got just one-game suspensions.

How in the world, then, does a high school coach properly govern his/her student-athletes when people far older can't get it right?

Here's a possibility: The state should consider adopting a system, similar to the red and yellow cards issued in soccer matches, in which athletes are given points for aberrant on-field behavior in all sports, with, say, two points handed out for any unsportsmanlike conduct foul assessed in a game, and one point for any unnecessary roughness call in sports where it applies.

Any player who accumulates seven points in a season would be suspended for a game, with subsequent suspensions for any additional three points. And to make sure coaches are accountable, they would receive half the points for their players' conduct and all the points for their own, with suspensions coming at the 15-point level and for every five points thereafter.

That may not be a flawless answer, but it sure beats calling football games in the third quarter.

milton.kent@baltsun.com

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