Players get in fights in football games, and often those players are suspended for their actions. Sometimes they even miss the playoffs.That's not unusual. What is unusual is having an entire team miss the playoffs because of fighting.
Yet that's precisely what just happened in North Carolina, where two high schools will miss the playoffs after a regulation on in-game fighting was invoked by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. You can see fan-captured video of the fight via North Carolina station WRAL's HighSchoolOT.com.
"The schools have accepted full responsibility," David Whitfield, the NCHSAA commissioner, told the Raleigh News & Observer. "The schools have done everything they could in the aftermath of the problem. The rule is clear cut. The schools are accepting the consequences and are taking a positive approach."
According to the News & Observer and the Fay Observer, a brawl that broke out between Southern Pines Pinecrest and Cameron Union Pines during their Aug. 27 matchup had multiple players leap off the bench to enter an on-field fracas between a Union Pines and Pinecrest player that was sparked by Union Pines sophomore defensive lineman Lamont Legrande. According to a radio call by Moore Sports radio, which you can hear in the video above, Legrande ripped the helmet off an unidentified Pinecrest player during kickoff coverage, following a touchdown that gave Pinecrest a 49-7 lead in the second half.
Union Pines' players had grown increasingly frustrated during a 69-14 loss, but the melee in the 2010 meeting of the Battle of the Pines still clearly struck without warning. After the fight was stopped, each team had three players ejected from the game, and those six players immediately received two-game suspensions for their actions. Because the fight involved both benches, each team was also required to perform its own independent investigation. According to the Southern Pines Pilot, Union Pines suspended another six players following its internal investigation, and Pinecrest also suspended additional players.
Those suspensions, which were all handed down on the basis of in-game fighting, violate an NCHSAA regulation that limits a team to fewer than three suspensions for fighting and a total of six ejections over the course of a season.
This is the first time that football teams will miss the playoffs for an in-game fight since the NCHSAA ruling passed, which seems to prove that the rule has been pretty effective in limiting in-game brawls. In fact, the News & Observer said only one team in any sport has been banned from the playoffs for fighting.
While no one from either school has provided public comments, Moore County schools Superintendent Susan Purser said the suspensions, and a $1,000 fine against each school, have been readily accepted by the schools.
"Our first responsibility is to our community and ourselves," Purser said in a statement. "Therefore, discussions were begun immediately following Friday evening's game and plans implemented starting last Monday to address good sportsmanship, respect for all competitors on the field, court and sidelines, and the qualities of good character we want to instill in our students and expect from our adults."