Nick Stevens

Too harsh? Much to lose in a single moment

Posted September 20, 2016

Kaligah Murrell (2) of Riverside. Wakefield shuts out Riverside 32 to 0 at home on Friday, Septeber 16, 2016. (Photo By: Beth Jewell/HighSchoolOT contributor.)

Every year it seems we see a handful of high school teams get declared ineligible for the state playoffs for a variety of reasons.

Ejections are among the reasons that teams could be declared ineligible for the playoffs. In fact, already this year three area teams have been declared ineligible after three or more players were ejected from games for fighting – Cedar Ridge, Northern Vance and Riverside.

But is that too harsh?

N.C. High School Athletic Association rules state that any team who has three or more players ejected for fighting over the course of the season is ineligible to compete in the state playoffs. A team with six or more ejections for ay other reason is also ineligible.

It goes without saying that sportsmanship is important, and clearly that means fighting should not be tolerated. But at the same time I wonder if we should be levying such a heavy punishment on a team because of the actions of a few.

Take Cedar Ridge and Riverside for example. Three players from each team were ejected for fighting after an altercation that occurred near the very end of 20-3 game. According to, Riverside has 47 players on its roster and Cedar Ridge has 42. That means six players out of the 89 who took the field that night were out of hand. But the other 83 have to pay the price.

Think about the seniors who will not have a shot to make the state playoffs, not because of winning and losing, but because of teammates.

The kids who play high school sports are kids. They get caught up in the moment and they make poor decisions. But does the punishment fit the crime? I don't think so. Not in this case.

Ejections are part of sport. They are in place so when things that don't belong in sport happen there is recourse within the game. This is not a situation where a team has gained an unfair advantage or played ineligible players that could have impacted the outcome of games.

In fact, a team who plays ineligible players – something that could result in an unfair advantage in competition – is not automatically disqualified for the playoffs. If that team still has enough wins to qualify after forfeits they can still go. But a team that has one bad moment with a handful of players has no chance.

Again, fighting is clearly not acceptable in sports, especially in high school sports. But can't we find a better way to address the problem? Let's make the players involved sit out of more games, let's put them on a form of probation where if it happens again they're done for the season. There are other options.

When Cedar Ridge and Riverside played their game, 83 players were not involved in a fight. Six were. But now 89 players have no chance at a playoff game because of something that occurred in the heat of the moment.

Follow Nick Stevens on Twitter @NickStevensHSOT


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  • NickStevensHSOT Sep 22, 2016

    @RDUPhotog: The graduation rate among athletes is over 99%. They have to have the grades in order to even be eligible. Not sure there is another program that exists today with better graduation rates.

  • daddydewdewdrop Sep 22, 2016

    If the penalty were lessened fighting would increase. Any good coach would discuss these ramifications with their teams well before a game is played. Therefore, any player should think twice before risking his teammates entire season. I've seen situations, before this rule, where the crowd came dangerously close to rioting. Since this rules initiation fights generally end much quicker because the coaches know what is at stake. It is a harsh rule, but one that definitely needs to stay intact. Assistant coaches need to be coached on how to 1. keeping players on the bench during wolfing and smack talk; 2. deescalating hotheads when they get riled up. It is a job, a hard one at that! Life has consequences, sometimes they are entirely too harsh; better to learn that at 18 years old than 30 with a family.

  • Lost and Loaded Sep 21, 2016

    It's often more complex than punishing a team for an individual's actions. Sometimes the team/coaches encourage bad behavior - enciting and emboldening a few to take action. In that case the team punishment is deserved. The truth is fighting is becoming more common in games and I believe it is more due to bad coaching than bad kids. Coaches should already know who the powderkegs are on their team and keep them under control. I think the current system is fair.

  • rduphotog Sep 21, 2016

    Instead of punishing the teams for fighting how about punishing teams for not having a high enough graduation rate the previous year!

  • getsome Sep 21, 2016

    Eject the players involved not the entire team. Get ejected from the game and miss the next game automatically.

  • ladyknowssports Sep 21, 2016

    I am glad someone addressed this. all the people on the HSOT blog didn't..... I am for punishing kids when they do wrong, but I agree it tooo harsh a punishment for the entire team and coaches. You wonder why people are leaving coaching... dismiss the players fighting, suspend them for 3,4 games. Put them off the team. If the intent is to make the players feel bad how their actions impacted the team and they will now change their ways...... maybe in the 70's 80's, but not now. Not the world we live in..... bad behavior hiding behind the crowd/team.