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Excusing more terrible behavior by teenagers

November 25, 2010
By MIKE MATHISON, Sports editor

Barring any unforseen circumstances, four South Charleston football players should be really thankful they get to play in Saturday's West Virginia Class AAA semifinal against Brooke at 1:30 p.m. at the University of Charleston's Laidley Field.

Five players were suspended by the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission for their part in a brawl that happened at the end of last week's quarterfinal victory over Hurricane.

A Hurricane player threw a punch that landed all all heck broke loose.

The video is on the Internet.

At one point I counted about 36 South Charleston players on the field to Hurricane's 12.

It has not been officially reported who the fifth South Charleston player is who was suspended, but why is his name not part mentioned in the lawsuit with the other four?

Is it because he is an underclassmen who does not play?

Is it because his parents actually have a sense of right and wrong and is making him sit out?

This is the second SSAC ruling in less than a year that has gone to court.

So, my question is, why have an SSAC if their rulings keep getting challenged and keep going to court?

Why not just have each ruling come down by some phantom group of people and have the adults who don't like the ruling immediately go crying to some judge some place to get their way.

Leave the SSAC out of it.

If this happened in Week 2, there would be no court case.

If this happened to five subs who see little time on the field, there would be no court case.

But, that's not the case.

The four players mentioned and suspended - 2009 Kennedy Award winner Tyler Harris, wide receivers Perry Henry and Emerson Gagnon and running back Trevand Reese - get to suit up Saturday because a bunch of adults have no backbone and of a terrible rule set forth by the National Federation of State High School Associations which says "The officials shall have the authority to make decisions for infractions of the rules. The use of any replay or television monitoring equipment by the officials in making any decisions relating to the game is prohibited."

I have watched the video and have looked for the four players suspended and I am of the belief they got what they deserved.

In addition, South Charleston should be lucky there weren't more players suspended and if SSAC officials were allowed to go to the tape, more would have been suspended.

If the player not mentioned is not mentioned because his parents chose for him to sit the game out because they know his actions were terrible, congratulations to the parents.

I don't know who you are, but you get it - unlike other parents, the lawyer, the judge, the coach, the superintendent of schools any all the other adults who feel those kids should play Saturday.

Here are various quotes from South Charleston coach John Messinger:

"To sit back and know that young men of great character are being told they're guilty of something and know in their heart of hearts that they weren't involved, that's tough. I know these kids' character and I know how they're taught both here and at home. To see them accused of something they didn't do ... they're like my kids. I get extremely defensive."

"I trust (SSAC Executive Director) Gary Ray in that he's just like the rest of us. He understands that if there are rules and you don't live by them, then you have anarchy. They have to make their rules in order for things to work.

"It was a tragedy that it happened to begin with. I understand that will be suspensions leveled for fighting, and different suspensions for coming onto the field."

"Honestly, I think they just lost control," he said Friday night of the officials.

"We're going to prepare as if we have a full roster, based on the fact that someone will file for an injunction. I don't know how the court system works, or the (injunction) process works, so we're also going to prepare an alternate plan and with our backups, and we may have to use them. That's all we can do. Our part as coaches is to get these kids prepared."

"No matter what the outcome of this is, our opinion of these kids and our program and our coaches and our administration and the way we do things is not going to change. It's no reflection on our kids, their character and exactly how they've played and maintained themselves at South Charleston High School. We're proud of them to the bitter end."

"It kind of flaws the system if they can't go back and review the tape and get it right. That's the important thing is that we get it right."

"Given the fact that there were some obvious inequities, it's only fair to these kids and their parents to have the opportunity to get up and say 'I was' or 'I wasn't' guilty of being involved."

From lawyer Ben Salango.

"They want to do what's in the best interest of their team, and the best interest of their team would be for them to be on the field. They've practiced all year. They've played all year and they've reached a pretty critical part of the year, and the game should be decided on the field and not on some report that's filed after the fact."

"Out of all the kids that were out there fighting, they selected four of the star players off of the particular team to suspend rather than suspending a number of them. They shouldn't be afraid to stand up for their rights."

"As a direct result of the WVSSAC's actions, Plaintiffs have not been afforded the benefit of the on-field determinations to which they were entitled and will not be permitted to play in the upcoming AAA playoff game - a result that cannot be undone after the upcoming weekend," the lawsuit states.

Judge Carrie Webster granted the temporary restraining order.

"The court finds that the Plaintiffs have established that immediate and irreparable harm will result to Plaintiffs before the adverse party may be heard in opposition," the order states.

This is not all about sports.

It's about life and how adults are allowing kids to live life with substandard morals.

Dear judge, there would have been zero irreparable harm if those kids would not have been allowed to play Saturday.

Dear judge, if you had time to hear the case for the injunction, of which the SSAC was never apprised of the hearing, then my guess you could have found time on Wednesday for both sides to be heard and make a ruling before you sat down to eat turkey.

I am now waiting for a student at any school in Kanawha School District who gets in a fight and gets suspended to immediately file an injuction with Webster.

Throughout all of this, the superintendent of the Kanawha County Board of Education, the prinicipal of South Charleston High School, Messenger and the parents should really pat themselves on the back for making excuses for terrible, pathetic behavior by those teenagers.

No excuses.

(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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