Sportsmanship is expected to get renewed attention at N.C. High School Athletic Association schools in the coming weeks after a record number of teams have been disqualified from the boys basketball playoffs because of ejections for fighting.
Four high school boys basketball teams already have been disqualified from the playoffs because of ejections for fighting. Regardless of their records or their accomplishments during the season, South Granville, Warren County, Robbinsville and Andrews are ineligible to participate in the NCHSAA boys basketball playoffs.
"We are very concerned with the ejections for fighting," said Davis Whitfield, the commissioner of the NCHSAA. "We are going to step up our sportsmanship initiative and make sure our member schools and coaches understand the importance of sportsmanship.
"We are going to teach sportsmanship. We have no place for fighting."
If a team has more than six players ejected for fighting during a season or have three or more ejected in one game, the team is ineligible for the playoffs.
The NCHSAA defines fighting as attempting to strike an opponent with fist, hands, arms, legs or feet; an attempt to punch or kick an opponent; an attempt to instigate a fight by committing an unsportsmanlike act or leaving the bench to participate in a fight.
By rule, if a player leaves the bench area during a fight, the player is ejected for fighting whether or not contact is made.
The NCHSAA has had a fighting rule for more than 10 years that disqualifies teams for multiple fighting ejections, but before this school year only one team, a baseball team, had ever been kept out of the playoffs.
Last fall, five NCHSAA football teams - Southern Pines Pinecrest, Cameron Union Pines, Pamlico, North Moore and South Brunswick - were disqualified from the playoffs because of ejections for fighting.
"I thought that with the number of teams that were ineligible in football, we would not have this type of problem the rest of the year," said Rick Strunk, an associate commissioner of the NCHSAA.
"Frankly, I'm puzzled. Our coaches should be aware of the rule. They may need to practice responding the correct way if there is an altercation."
Whitfield said sportsmanship cannot be taught during one preseason meeting and then be forgotten.
"Sportsmanship is something that needs to be taught every day," Whitfield said. "We expect our coaches to teach sportsmanship."
Whitfield said the NCHSAA was going to step up its emphasis on sportsmanship.
Mark Dreibelbis, an NCHSAA assistant commissioner and its supervisor of officials, said coach education would be something the association will consider.
"We've got to find a way to eliminate fighting," he said. "Most times these incidents last less than 20 seconds and it's sad that a team forfeits its playoff privileges because of a loss of control by a few people for a short period of time.
"But there is absolutely no place in interscholastic athletics for this type of unsportsmanlike behavior."
Roger Morton, the game officials' representative on the NCHSAA board, said in December that he was very concerned with the number of ejections for fighting.
"This is something that needs our attention," Morton told the board during meetings in Chapel Hill. "Where is all this anger coming from and what can we do to help.
"We cannot allow this is ruin our program."
In addition to missing the playoffs, schools are fined $1,000 by the NCHSAA for fighting and players are ineligible for four games.
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