Costly ejections becoming more rare

Published 12:01 pm Thursday, January 6, 2011

Two high school athletes were ejected from Monday’s Verbena-Isabella girls and boys basketball games.

Such situations are embarrassing for the schools involved and costly for the players—but are becoming increasingly rare.

The first ejection Monday was for fighting. The second ejection resulted from the player receiving two technical fouls, for arguing with an official and with spectators.

“Referees are not going to be perfect all the time–they’re human,” Verbena boys and girls coach Jonathan Shedd said about what he preaches to his players about not arguing with officials. “We can’t worry about the officials.”

Shedd said, in his experience, players regret their actions immediately–and not just because they’re forced to sit out the rest of the game, at least.

“It’s going to depend on the kid, and it’s going to depend on the parent,” he said. “My parent the other night, as soon as the kid sat down, she was in his ear, and I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant.”

The mother was surely angry about her child’s public display, but she may have also been aware of a Chilton County School System policy that would mean a hit to the pocketbook.

The Alabama High School Athletic Association fines a school $300 if one its players is ejected from a sporting event. In Chilton County, the school pays the fine but requires reimbursement from the offending athlete before he or she can suit up for another game.

Some relief is available for first-time offenders in the form of an online sportsmanship course. Successful completion of the course reduces the fine to $100, but athletes can only take the course once during their careers.

A second ejection in the same season results in a $500 fine and one-game suspension, and a third offense carries a $750 fine and suspension for the rest of the season.

But occurrences of ejections has reduced dramatically since 2007 thanks to the implementation of the STAR Sportsmanship program, said Ron Ingram, with AHSAA Communications. Under the program, all athletes are required to complete an online sportsmanship course before competing (the STAR Take 2 course is the option after a first ejection).

Ejections in all sports combined went from 618 for the 2007-08 school year to 476 during 2009-10, a 23 percent decrease.

“We also have a Sportsmanship Banquet at All-Star Sports Week to recognize schools that went through the entire school year without a fine or ejection,” Ingram said. “Each school gets a special banner to hang in their schools touting the accomplishment.

“The first year, 2007-08, we had 92 schools with no fines or ejections; in 2008-09, the total was 104; and in 2009-10 it was up to 125.”

Last year’s local honorees were Billingsley, Isabella and Maplesville. These schools received banners, but they’re likely more happy about what they didn’t get: a fine and a public black eye.