Alta’s Jack Johnson flies after being tripped by Lega’s Tyson Haunga, for which Haunga received a yellow card during the 5A Boys State Football Championship at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Wednesday, May 25, 2022 . (Spencer Heeps, Deseret News)
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MIDVALE – Utah Boys Football gets a yellow card.
During the association’s most recent executive committee meeting, the Utah School Activities Association voted to grant a three-year probation and two-game loss to every team in the state – meaning teams will only be allowed to play 14 games starting in the 2023 season – due to an increase in red cards, exclusions, and other unsportsmanlike conduct in schools, classifications, and regions.
It is hoped that by playing two fewer games per season, coaches and administrators will be able to better control the behavior of players, coaches, parents, volunteers and spectators, especially in relation to interactions with referees and match officials.
The two-game cut will be reviewed after each season beginning with the 2023 spring competition to determine whether probation may be terminated, extended or otherwise modified – including shortened or expanded – depending on current circumstances.
“We ask all of you administrators, coaches, players and parents to step up and take responsibility for this great sport,” said UHSAA Assistant Director Brenan Jackson, Lead Athletic Director, in a letter to member schools obtained by KSL.com. . “Coaches, you have the biggest influence on the behavior and style of play you allow on the pitch. The behavior of the players, and sometimes parents, is a direct reflection of how you behave on the field. We ask you to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Model and educate behaviors and playstyles that will help bring back matches that have been taken.
“Please take the time to evaluate your programs and make any necessary adjustments to improve everyone’s experience, especially the student-athlete.”
Jackson acknowledged that not every school has the same problem with the increase in unsportsmanlike conduct, but he added that circumstances make it “a statewide problem” when announcing probation.
“I want to thank the few football schools that have had no exceptions this season and encourage you to continue to create a competitive environment rich in sportsmanship and without exceptions,” he said.
The decision was made by a 27-member executive committee, which includes administrators—primarily directors and athletic directors—from each region and state classification. The decision was made “to speak out against sporting behavior problems in youth football,” the UHSAA added in a brief statement, declining to comment further.
The probationary policy comes into effect just weeks after the Utah Youth Football Association announced a zero-tolerance policy for referee misbehavior by fans, players and coaches during their own matches. At the time, the association said the misuse of officiating had led to a severe shortage of officials to play staff in the games — a shortage that UHSAA officials also spoke about openly, both publicly and privately.
From the UYSA’s point of view, any coach, player or spectator who berates, harasses or threatens the referee risks losing the game and losing the team’s spectators for the rest of the season.
“Judge mistreatment has always been a problem,” UYSA CEO Brian Attridge told KSL-TV. “But we have to do better.”
While perhaps among the most common – and certainly notable – rants and complaints, the issues surrounding unsportsmanlike conduct at school games go beyond referee harassment.
The UHSAA says 164 suspensions were issued last spring, including 146 players and 18 coaches. Of these eliminations, all but 50 were red card offenses, including 43 for violent conduct and 71 for inappropriate language, gestures, fighting, taunting, and other foul play.
In one example, the State 6A semi-final between eventual champion Herriman and Farmington, the Phoenix had seven yellow cards and two red cards, and the referees needed a police escort to leave the field after the final whistle.
Among the 21 sports sanctioned by the association, 50% of all exceptions and serious disciplinary offenses are for boys’ football, Jackson said.
“This is unacceptable,” he added. “Changes need to be made to improve sportsmanship and the number of eliminations happening in your schools.”
For many, the need to control behavior starts at the top, with coaches and administrators.
“Coaches have to control themselves and their players and their reactions to calls and things like that,” Coach Suli Phongsawat Davis. said the Standard-Examinerwho first reported it. “That’s what we’re responsible for.”
This is not the first time that state-sanctioned boy football in 1983 has been placed on probation. In 2007, the UHSAA targeted several schools, namely Park City, Bonneville, Jordan, and Dixie. according to Park Record – with a wide-field trial period. That season saw a then-record total of 111 sorties, a 30% increase over the previous year, requiring swift action.
The entire state was also put on probation in the 1990s, with teams also losing two games a season.