UHSAA places boys’ football on probation for three years due to rising number of exceptions

Herriman High’s boys’ football team knew they had to clean up.

In the 2021 season, the Mustangs have accumulated more yellow and red cards than they were comfortable with. Coach Marcello Gasperini, who was an assistant that year before taking over as head coach in 2022, said the team averaged about two or three yellows per game and a total of 12 to 15 reds.

“The feedback I get from the admins and the sports director is that we were the most hated school for referees because the players were just over the top,” Gasperini said.

But Herriman changed the situation. According to Gasperini, in 2022 the team received fewer than 10 yellow cards and only two red ones. He attributes this to pressure and higher expectations from the school administration to improve the team’s behavior on the field.

So when an email arrived on June 9th from the Utah High School Activities Association in which all boys football was put to the test for three years and his schedule was cut by two games across the board starting in the spring of 2023 due to an increase in exceptions, Gasperini reacted to this. with “immediate disappointment”.

“This is not the way players, coaches, or even parents learn and develop,” Gasperini said.

The UHSAA, in an email received by The Salt Lake Tribune, said that of the 21 sports allowed in Utah, 50% of all recorded exceptions are boys’ football and called the figure “unacceptable.”

“Sportsmanship has been a huge focus for the UHSAA, with increased attention in the past. [five] years,” the letter said. “Boys’ football is in direct conflict with the goals, direction and mission of the UHSAA.”

Seth Wallace, coach of the boys’ football team at Morgan High School, disagrees with the UHSAA’s characterization of the sport.

“It makes me a little upset that they portray football as a problematic sport with all these bad kids when other sports are just as good, if not worse,” Wallace said.

The UHSAA on Wednesday released data on the number of eliminations that have occurred in youth football for the 2022 season, after initially not providing any data when initially announcing probation.

In total, last season there were 164 ejections, of which 146 were athletes. In total there were 114 sending-offs as a result of direct red cards and 50 for receiving two yellow cards.

The UHSAA stated that 71 red cards were received for “language or gestures/fighting/infringement/denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity/taunting/unsportsmanlike conduct”. And 43 for “violent behavior.”

“The UHSAA believes schools/officials are not reporting other cases of exclusion,” the association said.

When Leyton Christian Academy boys football coach Lucas Almeida read the 50% figure in an association email, he actually thought the percentage would be higher due to the types of fouls that occur on the field.

“In other sports, I think it’s very hard to kick you out,” Almeida said. “You have to really go beyond for these things to happen to you. Even in football, which also requires physical effort, it is very difficult, because you have to go to extreme measures. Time is of the essence in football.”

Almeida believes that yellow cards – and even some red ones – are part of football. For example, if his team is about to score a goal and one of his players grabs an opposing striker to prevent a goal, he is basically okay with it, despite the fact that the result is a red card and a subsequent one-game suspension for his player.

On the other hand, Almeida does not condone players or parents who scold referees.

Wallace agrees with Almeida that cards are part of football and almost inevitable. But when it comes to excluding players or coaches for other reasons, he sees what the UHSAA is trying to do.

“I felt like the way other teams, players, coaches were treating umpires was out of control and referee abuse was out of control,” Wallace said.

Morgan’s coach added that his own players were heavily abused. According to him, in the semi-final game 3A, his players were “threatened with life”. He also said that his players are called the N-word, even though most of them are white.

Wallace said his team has only suffered two suspensions in the 2022 season. One of them was yellow for the second, and the other was straight red.

Coaches disagreed with the USHAA’s cut in games, arguing that the increase in regular season games allowed from 16 to 14 is a significant loss.

“You take away two games and you get 10% of the games if you go all the way,” Almeida said, adding that the two games also help prepare the team for their region’s schedule.

The USHAA said it will review probation every year for three years. This will further reduce the number of games “unless sportsmanship and emissions improve,” the email said. The association’s executive committee has not yet set any standards for the number of exemptions allowed for probationary revisions.

The coaches were upset that the UHSAA made their decision without getting their feedback on how the bailout could be improved. They would like this change to continue.

“Let’s be part of a solution that we can all work towards,” Gasperini said. “Assemble a committee and together and collectively let’s change the climate and atmosphere of how football is perceived in Utah. It’s a better solution than just throwing in the gauntlet.”

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