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Naysayer says IHSAA was Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

What transpired in the stands and on the court between the Ben Davis and Pike high school girls’ basketball teams and their fans recently was just flat-out wrong. Period.

I also think the thought process in the days following the incident inside the halls of the IHSAA and its ensuing verdict to cancel both seasons is flat-out wrong and counterproductive. Period.

In contrast, you might recall that the Indiana Pacers were involved in a pretty significant brawl in Detroit. I can still see Jermaine O’Neal drop that fan with a right-hand punch and Ron Artest walking around looking like the Incredible Hulk.

The NBA handed out unprecedented suspensions and fines for that fight, but didn’t cancel the season. Sanctions and suspensions, not cancelations, ruled the day for the biggest black eye the NBA has ever suffered. Taking the season away would have been counterproductive, let alone financially paralyzing for the NBA and the Pacers organizations.

Circling back around, by canceling the season for these high-schoolers, nothing will be accomplished. It just punishes the students—in particular, it unjustly punishes the students who chose not to be involved. There is no lesson to be learned by eradicating the rest of the season for the innocent. The IHSAA was in a position to make this a teaching moment for all parties involved. Instead, it swung a mighty hammer.

Here’s what I mean—and this goes for both teams. I’ll deal with the fans later.

The season should be reinstated for both teams. Period.

Punishment for those student-athletes who chose to be involved should be swift and sure, but letting them off for the rest of the season is no punishment at all. All of those active participants should be suspended from playing in games, but not suspended from the team. They should have to practice, condition, fill in practice roles and then dress in street clothes and sit behind the bench during games. That has an impact.

Remember how Indianapolis rallied around the Pacers in the days and weeks following the brawl? Remember how it was an “us versus them” mentality? The same reaction can happen inside these schools. Team members could come closer together throughout this ordeal.

By making the suspended athletes stay on the team and practice, the younger players moved up from the J.V. team to fill the varsity roster would benefit from the competition. The suspended players also benefit from putting in the hard work, mentoring younger players, yet are reminded of their poor decision every game as they sit behind the bench to support their team. The game goes on and the players learn.

The fans, on the other hand, have no excuse. There is no “heat of the battle” reason to tie their actions to the game, and whether the fight started in the stands or not—really? Let’s go to my daughter’s basketball game and start a fight? Is that the mantra of today’s high school fan?

For the remainder of this season, their fans are no longer welcome at the games, with the exception of parents and siblings. Pike and Ben Davis will play their remaining games with no fans in the stands.

And those foolish fans identified as participants in the brawl should be prosecuted and then banned from attending any high-school sporting event for life. Since when have sporting events become a venue for fighting? Attending sporting events is not outside of the law.

If the IHSAA wants to do right by the kids, the schools and the fans, canceling the season is the easy, and wrong, way out. I think if the above were enacted, the life lessons would be richer and more poignant. The end result would be more compassionate and smarter student-athletes.

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