By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item
Five days before the Sept. 17 bench-clearing brawl at the Shikellamy-Selinsgrove football game that led to the one-game suspension of four Sunbury players, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association staff expressed concern about the rising incidents of unsportsmanlike behavior.
In a weekly PIAA website message posted Sept. 12, staff reported there were already more than 100 disqualifications for bad behavior within the first two weeks of the start of the fall sports season.
“What we have seen in less than two weeks is a high number of people who want to fight, use extremely vulgar profanity and to be abusive to opponents and officials with reckless abandon. This cannot stand.”
A week later, and following the fight during the Shikellamy-Selinsgrove match, frustrated PIAA staff addressed the issue again.
“Putting a spotlight on the spate of disqualifications that we discussed last week didn’t have the effect we’d hoped. As of Sept. 20, we have experienced (more) disqualifications. Possibly a more punitive approach will be of assistance in slowing the rate of disqualifications ... but that’s not today’s message.”
PIAA associate executive director Melissa Mertz said there are no immediate plans to tighten penalties against unsportsmanlike conduct among athletes and coaches, but the issue will be reviewed at the next scheduled board meeting in December.
“Unfortunately it seems to be on the rise and it will not be tolerated,” she said of the fighting and profanity.
Players who are ejected from a game are prohibited from competing in the next contest.
The PIAA added a policy in recent years requiring individuals who have been disqualified to meet with school administrators.
“We want them to have a face-to-face interaction to discuss sportsmanship and show there are consequences,” Mertz said. “We always say you wouldn’t say ‘F-you’ in the chemistry lab. Why would you say it out on the field? We understand there is emotion in sports, we get it. But we’re talking seriously foul language and violence.”
She attributed the rising incidents of poor sportsmanship to young players emulating college and pro athletes, as well as other influences, including coaches and “sadly, parents” who allow youths to get away with bad behavior off the field.
In the meantime, Mertz said, the focus will remain on educating coaches and players.
“Sports,” she said, “is about developing kids to be good citizens.”