DEAN’S LIST: HIGH SCHOOL FIGHT NIGHT; IS IT TIME FOR THE IHSAA TO ISSUE TOUGHER PENALTIES?

IHSAA

THE DEAN’S LIST BY DEAN HOCKNEY

What has the game we love come to? Moreover, what has high school sports become? For at least the third time this hoops season and fourth time in the last two years, an Indiana high school athletic event has been halted due to a fight.

On Feb. 20, a fight – or as one media outlet called it, a huge brawl – broke out in the stands of the Fort Wayne Bishop Luers at 3A No. 10 Gary Roosevelt boys basketball game. While no players were involved in the second quarter melee, the game was canceled as players – and Luers fans – were ushered into a locker room for protection. Dozens of people were reportedly involved in the fight, which was on the Gary side of the gym. The Luers team was given a police escort out of town.

This fight came just 13 days after Hammond and Griffith had an on-court fight that resulted in both teams having their seasons rightfully suspended by IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox. That fight involved players throwing punches after a hard foul and resulted in some fans spilling onto the court to get involved.

Steve Hanlon of the NWI Times said in a column that “every basketball fan in Northwest Indiana should be embarrassed. We have become a joke. Maybe we should shut the whole thing down.”

But this type of activity is not limited to the Northwest. In fact, it happened right here in the North Central Conference earlier this season. On Dec. 19, 2014, the varsity basketball game between Anderson and Muncie Central was stopped with 3:41 left in the third quarter when a fight broke out in the stands. It took 30 minutes for order to be restored and the game concluded – but not after arrests were made and students told not to come back into the game.

Terry Thompson, superintendent of Anderson Community Schools, told WISH-TV that, “administrators at both Muncie and Anderson High Schools had ‘anticipated a problem’ at the game due to prior social media rumors. School officials said the fight started after ‘ongoing problems between Muncie and Anderson social clubs.’”

On Sept. 27, 2013, future NCC member Indianapolis Arsenal Technical High School was involved in an ugly football incident that saw both benches empty, coaches trade punches and fans spill onto the field. That resulted in both coaches and several student-athletes getting suspended for a game.

Kokomo is not immune either – remember the football fight with Richmond in Sept. 2011?

While the IHSAA acted swiftly in handing out penalties, these events seem to be happening more often than in the past – or maybe we hear about it because of social media. But who is to blame? Ultimately, it is the school. Anderson and Muncie Central anticipated an issue but still couldn’t get the fight in the stands stopped. While I wasn’t there, maybe they did not have enough personnel – like law enforcement – at the game to prevent the ugly incident. At Gary Roosevelt, fans had to go through a metal detector before the game and it took 20 minutes for enough police to arrive – can you imagine that brawl happening with weapons?

Yes, the schools are responsible, but I also blame the IHSAA. While they are worried about how much a public address announcer incites a crowd, maybe they need to take a look at the root causes of these incidents. Maybe it is time for a sportsmanship policy for fans in attendance at games. And as for participants, maybe stiffer penalties are needed; how about an automatic suspension of 25 percent of the season if a player or coach is ejected?

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of reading about incidents that disrupt the play of our high school student-athletes. Enough is enough.

Until next time, remember to keep the man and ship in sports – and I’ll see you at the game.

Dean Hockney is the publisher of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana and sports editor of the Kokomo Herald. You can follow him on Twitter (@Sports_Journal) for the latest in local sports news and game reports.

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