Park City and boys soccer on probation
June 23, 2007
It was a season full of unsportsmanlike behavior for boys’ soccer according to the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) and now the entire sport will be paying for it, especially Park City.
The Miners, along with three other schools were slapped with $500 fines and reprimands by the state governing body for specific incidents during the season regarding unsportsmanlike conduct. The cited schools will also play two fewer games in the regular season. Statewide, all high school boys’ soccer programs will serve a one-year suspension for unsportsmanlike behavior on behalf of everyone involved players, coaches, fans and administration.
"It’s a great lesson," said Park City High School Athletic Director Doug Payne as the penalties were handed down.
According to Rob Cuff, UHSAA assistant director, the season ejection report was downright alarming.
A whopping 111 players and coaches were ejected form high school games this year. Cuff says that is the highest number ever since soccer was added as a sanctioned high school sport in Utah in 1983. Cuff says that the sport will be on probation indefinitely, with a review taking place at the end of the 2008 season to reassess lifting or extending the penalties. He says if soccer doesn’t clean up its act, the number of season games could be reduced from 16 to 14.
The Miners were cited for an incident during the state playoffs during which a member of the team allegedly spit on an official and made an obscene gesture at the crowd. Jordan, Dixie and Bonneville were also penalized for similar displays of bad sportsmanship at other playoff games. According to Cuff, all of the schools will have the right to a hearing to appeal those penalties in the fall.
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"The board will listen to what they’ve done and lift the penalty or add more," Cuff said.
The fines and suspensions were sent to each school in the form of a letter to the principal. The school administration may choose to bring documentation or individuals to defend themselves at the hearing.
Payne said that the school will appeal the decision in August when prep sports start up again. He plans to show the school handled the situation internally and had remedied the problem.
"I think those results will resolve themselves as we move forward," Payne said.
The school has also made some changes. Mike Guetschow, the Park City High School head soccer coach for the past 10 years, was recently fired, In Region 10 meetings, Payne said that all of the schools have decided to address sportsmanship across the board. Also, following an earlier incident in the regular season, when a Park City player got in a verbal tangle with a Judge Memorial player, both schools paid $500 fines and the players involved received a two-game suspension.
"We were appalled and we appreciate their help, but here’s what we’ve done," Payne said.
Cuff also said that the UHSAA is looking at the administration of the sport as a whole and they will try to remedy the problem at all levels.
They plan to train officials in new and better ways. Consistency from game to game has been a problem and Cuff hopes that a revamped training process will help remedy the situation.
"We realize there’s a problem with officiating," Cuff said.
They will add more training sessions and look to attract more officials and younger officials to the program. Cuff says that they have tried to tap into colleges and universities to find officials and also ask that coaches around the leagues recommend past players.
Cuff is also asking school administrators and coaches to step up and be more vocal and proactive at games.
"Our coaches need to step up and be good role models and not condone bad behavior," Cuff said.
He also says part of the responsibility is on the parents and spectators.
"It takes all those groups working together or we’re not going to see improvement," Cuff said. "Everybody has a responsibility in this to help the sportsmanship."
Guetschow agrees that positive steps beyond the suspension in many areas are needed to cure the problem.
"There are a lot of challenges in high school soccer and this reaction is probably right, but it doesn’t cure the problem," Guetschow said.
He also mentioned that consistent officiating was an issue as well as better, more current, administration for the sport.
The 111 ejections compares to 17 during the girls season. Cuff noted that the girls’ infractions keeping going down as the boys continue to increase.
"The girls seem to have a handle on sportsmanship, whereas the boys don’t," Cuff said.
This is not the first time that the sport has been on probation. Prep boys soccer suffered a similar fate following the 1996 season after a number of unsportsmanlike incidents. All involved, though, feel that probation was necessary.
"There were some incidents of very poor sportsmanship and that’s probably a proper reaction," said Guetschow.
Payne applauded the UHSAA decision, saying that despite being singled out, the sanctions should bring about positive results statewide in the sport. He also thinks a focus on sportsmanship for all of Park City High School’s sports should benefit the students and improve the image of the school.
"With all the teams, we’ve been trying to encourage the sportsmanship side of things," Payne said.
Cuff says that if everyone views the probation as a wake-up call to better the situation, then things should vastly improve before next year’s review
"This can be a positive if the groups involved can make it a positive," Cuff said.
– Bad behavior at state playoffs
Park City High School: a player allegedly spits on an official and makes an obscene gesture at the fans.
Jordan High School: players allegedly climbed fences, refused to wear shirt, duped ice and a sticky substance on the Juan Diego field, blew illegal air horns and stole equipment
Dixie High School: a player allegedly shoved an official and some parents refuse to leave the field.
Bonneville High School: a coach was cited for inappropriate behavior