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It has nothing to do with the schools involved

December 6, 2010

"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you." - Hebrews 13:17

I've been trying to really wrap my head around this entire West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission, South Charleston, Hurricane, Brooke, Carrie Webster, West Virginia State Supreme Court thing.

We can all agree that it's a mess and stuff needs to change once the Supreme Court hands down its ruling.

It needs to change from the top with the National Federation of State High School Associations archaic rule of not allowing officials to view videotape in a case like the brawl that happened at the end of the South Charleston-Hurricane game on Nov. 19 that precipitated this whole affair.

I would really hope the NFHS is looking at this case with more than a glance.

The SSAC, along with the OHSSA, and I would guess all other state associations, is a voluntary association.

High schools choose whether they want to be a member of the association. If they so choose, they agree to abide by the rules and regulations of the association.

That, in essence, is what it says in the SSAC Rules and Regulations Handbook.

1. As a general rule courts should not interfere with the internal affairs of school activities commissions or associations.

2. The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission is still for all intents and purposes in the same position as it has been for the past fifty years; that is, that member schools eligible to participate may voluntarily do so, and after such participation, they agree to comply with the rules and regulations that have governed such organization in the past and will govern in the future.

3. The organization has had rules for eligibility of students to participate in athletics or procedure for declaring such students ineligible to participate and for disciplinary procedures for member schools and for the review of such action or decision made by the officers of boards of the association or organization during its entire existence. Where such procedure is provided for in such organization or association the procedure must be followed and due process of law may be afforded administratively without the use of or application to the courts.

Again, this whole mess has nothing to do with kids, whether it's the kids at Hurricane who threw the first punch, the kids at South Charleston who overreacted, or the kids at Brooke. This especially has nothing to do with the kids at Martinsburg, who are really getting the short end of this.

All of this has to do with adults.

It has to do with adults who made decisions at the game.

It has to do with adults who made decisions to suspend players because of their actions at the game.

It has to do with a coaching staff full of them who apparently do not care for rules.

It has to do with a principal and superintendent who are putting wins above all else.

It has to do with a lawyer who felt it was really important for the courts to get involved.

It has to do with a judge who appears to have supplied some home cooking.

It has to do with another judge who stopped the state championship game.

Now, it has to do with adults on the state Supreme Court.

If that exact same fight takes place in the parking lot, it's called assault and arrests are made.

I'm not sure a court injunction would help the athletes then.

But, since the brawl took place on the field of play with 14.4 seconds left in the game, a lawyer can make sure a judge hears a case so that kids are ruled eligible to play.

Remember, the judge said the kids were allowed to play.

The judge never said the kids had to play.

Again, adults.

This is not about sports, either.

It's a clear indictment on adults.

"A double minded man is unstable in all his ways." - James 1:8

An interesting conversation yet to happen is when the SSAC board of directors next meets.

Vice president of that board is Mike Arbogast, principal of South Charleston High School.

It is apparent that Arbogast likes being involved in the rules process, but just not distributing the consequences.

He should step down.

How do you preach accountability and following rules and then not adhere to said rules and holding those accountable who break those rules?

Too many South Charleston adults just don't get it either.

I have read the message boards and, my goodness, no wonder why the kids feel they are entitled to play and not follow rules.

Dear geniuses, this is not a Brooke thing, a South Charleston thing or a Hurricane thing.

This is not a What-would-you-do-if someone-hit-you thing.

This is all about kids making the wrong choices and then getting bailed out by adults, regardless of what schools are involved.

Too many South Charleston adults have been whining like 5-year-olds about the punishment for Hurricane players.

Well, let's go there.

Hurricane principal Richard Campbell gets it.

"I went over the tape in slow motion several times, probably for two hours," he said. "Going through the steps and writing down numbers."

Campbell also had two assistant principals, the athletic director and head coach Willis May do the same thing and do it separately. They then met and compared their findings.

"If you watch the tape, there were a couple of various degrees of involvement," Campbell said. "That's why we want to be fair and equitable across the board.

"Punishment could range from anywhere from days of suspension from school, extra game suspensions for next year and also community service.

"I'm hoping people will understand we do take this seriously and our football coaches do, and our football players do. We are proud of the way they played. We weren't proud of the 14-seconds at the end of the game."

I still contend that Arbogast doesn't get it.

"Extra-curricular activity is an extension of the school day," said Arbogast. "From the very beginning of this we have followed our protocol and policy to the letter from day one.

"The policy is clear that fighting is against the rules. The policy calls for suspension up to 10 days and it's at the discretion of the administration.

"I'm going to respect my students' rights to confidentiality. These kids have been in public scrutiny more than any 16 or 17-year-old young man should ever go through or be exposed to."

The other day my son was watching sports on television and, after watching a professional athlete do something utterly stupid, asked "what would happen if I did that?"

"Your coach would never have to make a decision on when you go into a game," was my answer.

So, adults, if your son was one of the South Charleston players, would you take the punishment out of the hands of the coach and administration?

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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