WIAA sparks a discussion; athlete benched

aThe Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association sent an e-mail to its schools last month outlining standards by which students sections at high school sports contests should follow.

All positive, the WIAA wants.

Nothing negative.

Nothing, you know, fun.

“The intention of the message was misconstrued and morphed into something far beyond what it was and what it was intended for,” said Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletics Association Commissioner David Anderson in an Associated Press article. Anderson added that he stands by the guidelines.

According to the article, the association’s guidelines, which have been in place for years, say spectators are expected to “participate only in cheers that support and uplift the teams involved.”


The WIAA wants the following chants to stop:

You can’t do that


Air ball

There’s a net there


We can’t hear you


Season’s over

The e-mail, shown in full at the end of the column, was meant as a reminder to WIAA?schools.

It’s an edict, not a punishable act.

I truly understand where the WIAA is coming from, although it’s a bit misdirected.

I have witnessed student sections nearing the line of demarkation, but never crossing it.

The same cannot be said about adults.

Nothing is off the table for adults, and that’s where the problem lies.

I am of the opinion that students sections have a large latitude of what should and shouldn’t be said at a high school basketball game.

That’s why school administration is in the gym – to make sure things don’t go over the line.

What NEEDS to be administered is the shutting up of any adults not with any school administration talking to kids.

Last year I witnessed a high school administrator standing between a student section and adults because the adults decided to make it personal.

The administrator was there to make sure the students didn’t get out of line toward the adults, although they adults had already crossed that line.

Unfortunately, the administrator wasn’t there to babysit the adults.

There is a wide line of delineation here between high school student sections and adults.

I have witnessed far worse things coming out of the mouths of adults than from any student section.

I am a big proponent of student sections getting after one another.

That’s fun stuff and, many times, can be quite humorous.

One of the best last year was the Brooke and Weir students sections going at one another during a boys game inside the Carl Hamill Fieldhouse.

It was fun.

Can you imagine the gag order being put on the Weir and Madonna student sections Friday night inside the Dube Dome?

That would take away from the greatness of the game.

Do not shoot an air ball in that game.

One of the best parts of Friday night football games or basketball games – especially in big games – is the student sections.

They bring an atmosphere to the game which is needed and fun.

The themes are great.

And, more involvement by students in student sections, I hope, is encouraged by more students.

The energy students sections brings to games is palpable. It’s felt. It’s an intangible that is not in every gym, or stands on Friday nights in the fall.

Students sections at the West Virginia state basketball tournament in?Charleston add the aura of the experience.

The WIAA sent this out via Twitter Wednesday afternoon, “To be clear… there have been NO new directives, NO new rules, NO new mandates, NO new enforcement expectations.”

This is a great starting point for the WIAA to look at its policies and verbiage, not updated since 2005, regarding sportsmanship and what is rude, or disrespectful or what might be remotely considered demeaning.

What also brought this scenario to light was the five-game suspension of high school athlete April Gehl for her tweet that said “Eat s*** WIAA”.

The WIAA then allegedly brought it to the attention of Hilbert High School, which then doled out the punishment.

Too harsh?

Who cares?

I’ve always said the punishment needs to exceed the crime, therefore, a line in the sand has been drawn.

Give Vontaze Burfict eight games and let the NFLPA argue his case.

This PED thing in professional sports, make it a two-year ban, like Olympic athletes get, and the sport will be cleaned up in a hurry.

Could the punishment of Gehl have been less?


But, really, that’s not the point.

Use another word in that tweet – like taking out the “sh” – and she’s not suspended.

As has been said many times in this column, everyone has the freedom of speech, but, there are consequences with that freedom.

Gehl paid the consequences.

In a story by Ricardo Arguello, of the USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin,

April, an honor student with a 3.5 GPA, said she hasn’t deleted the tweet because she “was already punished for it,” but does regret sending it out.

“I mean, I never thought it would get me in trouble like that,” she said.

The Gehl family doesn’t plan on appealing the suspension.

The case is an example of the quagmire that social media can be and the fine line that student athletes must walk on Twitter, Facebook and other outlets.

“I was thinking, ‘How did they get it so quickly?'” Jill Gehl said of the WIAA seeing her daughter’s tweet. “Sure, what she said wasn’t the right words and wasn’t the best thing to do. I wasn’t real upset with her because there have been a lot more worse things said on Facebook and Twitter to specific people. This to me was more of a general response to an organization per se, not an individual. So, sure, I’m upset with it. But we just have to deal with the consequences.”

Look at that, a parent not apologizing away the act of a child.

Also, look at that, “we just have to deal with the consequences.”

Amazing, don’t you think?

Bravo to Jill Gehl for not shouting from the highest mountaintops that her child was the one being wronged here.

If April Gehl stands up in a classroom and yells “Eat s*** (insert teacher name)” does she get suspended?

I would say yes.

Saying that same thing to another student in the class is a different subject matter.

And, that’s what should be looked at here regarding the WIAA and it’s policy of being polite.

Student sections shouting things are a part of the game.

School administration is there to make sure kids stay in line.

I understand the policies the WIAA has in place, they just need a hard read and stern discussions.

As you all know, I am not a big fan of political correctness.

I think adults get away with far too much inside a gymnasium, at Friday night football games, during soccer contests or on the baseball or softball diamonds.

I was at a high school basketball game recently where I thought six adults, at the minimum, should have been kicked out of the gym.

None were.

Believe it or not, kids really do know where the line in the sand is.

They know what it takes to cross the line.

And, when caught, they understand the punishment.

Adults, far too many times, not so much.

From Arguello’s story, here is the e-mail sent by Clark last month:

Seasons Greetings,

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, as well as the opportunity to take a short breather.

Heading into the new year with the holiday tournaments and conference schedules ramping up, and the winter sports Tournament Series soon to follow, we want to identify a point of emphasis for sportsmanship this season.

As we reviewed the fall tournaments and the sportsmanship evaluations and observations, we want to address concerns with a noticeable increase in the amount of chants by student sections directed at opponents and/or opponents’ supporters that are clearly intended to taunt or disrespect.

Not wanting to restrict creativity or enjoyment, an enthusiastic and boisterous display of support for a school’s team is welcomed and encouraged at interscholastic events when directed in a positive manner. However, any action directed at opposing teams or their spectators with the intent to taunt, disrespect, distract or entice an unsporting behavior in response in not acceptable sportsmanship. Student groups, school administrators and event managers should take immediate steps to correct this unsporting behavior.

Some specific examples of unsporting behavior by student groups including chants directed at opposing participants and/or fans. Among the chants that have been heard at recent high school sporting events are: “You can’t do that,” “Fundamentals,” “Air ball,” “There’s a net there,” “Sieve,” “We can’t hear you,” The “scoreboard” cheer, and “Season’s over” during tournament series play.

Thanks for your assistance!

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at mmathison@heraldstaronline.com, followed on Twitter at @MathisonMike and is on the radio weekday mornings from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. with Joey Klepack and from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturdays on WEIR-AM)


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