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WHITE: PIAA should make football exception under new suspension rule

MIKE WHITE
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
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It’s likely the PIAA will pass a new rule that will lengthen suspensions for athletes and coaches who direct foul and abusive language toward an official.

But football players and coaches should take particular notice because “potty mouth” could sit them for about one-fourth of the regular season.

Last week, the PIAA passed, on a second reading basis, a new rule that calls for a “supplemental suspension” of two contests for athletes and coaches who are ejected from a game for foul and abusive language toward an official, or for making contact with an official. Currently, any athlete or coach ejected from a game, for whatever reason, is ineligible for only the next contest.

The new rule needs to pass only one more vote in June before it goes into effect for the 2020-21 school year.

Bob Lombardi

PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said the reason for the proposed new rule is an increase in ejections for abusive language toward officials. For example, 255 football players were ejected in Pennsylvania last year, an increase of about 20% from a few years ago.

“The reports we’re getting about what is said to officials is beyond offensive. It’s horrible and it has to stop,” Lombardi said.

The proposed new rule has come under criticism from football coaches — and those coaches have a valid point. A two-game suspension in football is unlike a two-game suspension in most other sports. For example, basketball teams are permitted to play 22 regular-season games. Football teams are allowed to play only 10, and some play nine.

So, if a football player is ejected from a game for language toward an official, and he is on a team that has only nine regular-season games, he has to miss the next two games, or 22% of the season. That’s a lot.

I understand the PIAA wanting to do something about abuse toward officials. It is a growing problem. But maybe the PIAA should treat football a little differently. Why not make the abusive language suspension rule for football like the NCAA rule for targeting in football? In the NCAA, a player who is ejected for targeting in the second half of a game, must sit the rest of that game and the first half of the next game. A player ejected in the first half needs to sit only the remainder of that game.

How about this for the PIAA? A football player ejected for abusive language toward an official in the second half of a game, must sit the rest of that game, the entire next game, and the first half of the following game. In essence, it would be a 1½ game suspension. All other sports can fall under the two-game “supplemental suspension.”

And Mr. Lombardi, I do not charge a “finder’s fee” when a suggested rule is passed.

Really? Not one high school baseball game was played in Pennsylvania this spring because of COVID-19.

But get this: Gatorade still named a Pa. Player of the Year and the honor went to Central Bucks East’s Nick Bitsko, a possible first-round pick in the MLB draft. But how do you name a player of the year when there was no “year” in Pa. high school baseball?

So, under this thinking, let’s just name Sidney Crosby MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Good rule: The PIAA made a good decision last week in establishing a new rule that if a girl golfer wants to play in a boys individual championship, she must play from the same tees as the boys. In the past, a girl golfer in a boys individual championship played from tees 15% closer to the hole.

Considering the new rule, I’m still trying to figure out the PIAA’s decision for girls who are on boys' teams. In boys' team matches, a girl will still play 15% closer to the hole. Why is there a rule for girls in boys' individual championships, but not boys' team matches, including team championships?

No shot clock likely: After a PIAA board of directors meeting on Zoom last week, a few PIAA administrators stuck around for a quick little news conference with a group of reporters. Judging from their comments, don’t expect a shot clock in Pennsylvania basketball any time soon.