Friday, June 10, 2011

AHSAA hits Lanier football team hard over fight

The AHSAA is requiring Lanier head coach Angelo Wheeler, above, and Blount head coach Kevin Sigler to complete a professional development course. Lanier also will give Wheeler a two-game sideline suspension this season.
The AHSAA is requiring Lanier head coach Angelo Wheeler, above, and Blount head coach Kevin Sigler to complete a professional development course. Lanier also will give Wheeler a two-game sideline suspension this season. 

Written by
Josh Moon
According to a letter sent from the AHSAA to both schools, a total of 91 players (35 from Lanier and 56 from Blount) were ejected for either participating in the fight or for leaving the bench during the fight.
Lanier was fined a total of $12,500 -- $300 for each ejected player and $2,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct -- but can reduce that amount to $4,000 if coaches and players participate in a variety of sportsmanship clinics and seminars and if players take online sportsmanship courses.
Blount was hit with $18,800 in fines, but can reduce its total to $6,300 by participating in the same courses.
The schools also were placed on two years of probation, and the 86 players ejected from the game for leaving the bench must serve a two-game suspension beginning next season.
Because the ejections occurred in an exhibition game, AHSAA officials will allow a fall jamboree game to count as one of the contests in which the players may serve their suspensions.
But Lanier will still be forced to sit 33 players -- and Blount 53 -- in their 2011 regular season openers.
"It was a bad situation, and we understand that," Blount head coach Kelvin Sigler said. "We're taking the appropriate actions to address our problems and make this right. We've already took part in one seminar in Montgomery, and we have more planned.
"The kids are going to do some community service work and we're going to use this as a teaching tool."
Lanier officials refused to comment on the situation.
Reached on his cell phone Wednesday, Poets head coach Angelo Wheeler said he was out of town and couldn't comment because school officials "don't want us to talk about it and make a bigger deal out of it. It is a big deal, but they don't want us to make it bigger."
Wheeler directed inquiries to Lanier athletic director Floyd Matthews. Matthews said he couldn't comment on the fight or the penalties imposed by the AHSAA. He said only principal Cheryl Smith-Fountain would be able to comment or provide a copy of the AHSAA's letter.
Numerous attempts to reach Smith-Fountain on Thursday were unsuccessful. She didn't return a message left on her voicemail, and front office workers at Lanier said she wouldn't have time to meet with a reporter in person.A copy of the AHSAA's letter and a list of corrective actions Lanier players and coaches are undertaking were obtained through Montgomery Public Schools communications officer Tom Salter.
The AHSAA letter outlines the numerous steps the players and coaches must undertake in order to reduce their fines and notes that the schools have already cut the $2,000 unsportsmanlike conduct fines in half by self-imposing several corrective actions.
According to the list of self-imposed corrective actions instituted by Lanier, all Lanier student-athletes involved will be forced to spend three hours working at a youth fishing rodeo June 18 and will spend more time working at senior citizen centers, day cares and community centers.
In addition, three players will spend 30 minutes three times per week for the next two months reading to children at local day-care centers.
All football players must attend a seminar and counseling session and complete eight hours of community service work with the Red Cross.
Lanier also is tacking on an additional one-game suspension for any player identified on game tape as throwing a punch, and no Lanier players will be allowed to participate in 7-on-7 camps this summer.
To reduce their fines from $300 to $100, each of the 91 players ejected from the game must take an AHSAA online behavioral course.
The two head coaches are also required to complete a professional development course, which includes meeting three times with former Robert E. Lee head coach Spence McCracken, who now serves as the AHSAA's mentoring instructor.
Lanier is also placing Wheeler on a two-game sideline suspension and plans to dock all football coaches two days of pay this summer.
"There are several things we have to go through, and we've already begun the process," Sigler said. "We're working with Sidney Lanier and the AHSAA on this. We've been to one mentoring session, where (G.W. Carver head coach James Jackson) spoke to us.
"We're going to make it right and learn a lesson from this. I wish it hadn't happened, but learning from it and using it to teach our kids how to handle anger and aggression is the best we can do with it now."
In its letter, the AHSAA praised both schools for their "immediate response" to evaluate and resolve the incident.
It also notes that the two-year probation means the schools could be banned from post-season competition should another incident take place during the probationary period.

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