Leading off today:
It has no direct connection to sports, but a story out of Pennsylvania caught my attention over the weekend at a time when I'd already been contemplating solutions for a problem in high school athletics that needs a remedy ASAP.
Here's the background, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Mt. Lebanon student Mitchell Klemencic was barred from his senior prom last week and will not cross the stage with his classmates at the June 4 graduation ceremony either. It's the result of Klemencic being cited -- but not yet tried -- for possession of drug paraphernalia April 23 by Mt. Lebanon police in an off-campus incident.
The punishment caused the Klemencic family to go before an Allegheny County judge to seek an injunction to stop the school district from enforcing a 30-day prohibition on all extracurricular activities if a student is arrested or so much as cited for a drug- or alcohol-related incident off-campus.
Judge Judith L.A. Friedman denied the motion, agreeing with district officials that the policy only affects extracurricular activities and not Klemencic's right to an education.
I initially disagreed with the ruling because I'm a "due process" kind of guy. But the problem with letting the case play out and waiting for a guilty verdict (or plea bargain) before assessing a penalty is that it's far too easy to string out the proceedings so that the point becomes moot. Between pre-trial motions, postponements, the actual trial and then even pro-forma appeals that get shot down immediately, it could have been a year or more before the drug paraphernalia case was heard or otherwise resolved.
In other words, Klemencic would be long gone by the time the school district could enforce its code of conduct, which is acknowledged and signed by all students.
Mind you, I still have reservations as to whether the school district should be able to punish Klemencic for something that did not happen on school grounds. But as long as they have a policy that has not been shot down by the court system -- part of the rationale for the rule was to give students one more reason to reject peer pressure to use drugs or alcohol -- they should enforce it consistently.
OK, so by now you're wondering what the heck this has to do with high school sports, right? Well, I'll tell ya:
Ward Melville upset Smithtown West 13-9 on Friday in a boys Section 11 Class A lacrosse semifinal that ended with a skirmish between the teams according to Newsday. The bench-clearing fracas resulted in the game being called with 5.6 seconds left, though coaches and officials were able to separate the players after about 30 seconds.
The paper said Section 11 athletic officials were likely to review video of the game to determine if penalties should be assessed, which could put Ward Melville at a distinct disadvantage in Wednesday's final vs. West Islip.
That came on the heels of last Monday's Guilderland-Ballston Spa lacrosse game in Section 2, which also ended in jawing that deteriorated into a shoving match and scrum. One player from each team was officially "ejected" from a game that had already ended, again theoretically leading to disciplinary measures against the advancing team.
And that's the problem: The winning team potentially has to play one or more subsequent postseason games without some of its players, but what happens to combatants from the losing team? If it's a fall or winter sport -- and football and ice hockey are among the problem sports when it comes to late-game idiocy -- then perhaps players can be punished by missing games in their next sport season.
If we're talking about single-sport athletes who are underclassmen, then they could be made to sit out games at the start of their next season in that sport. It's not the same as banning them from playoff games, but at least it's something.
But what do you do about seniors who go all-goonish in the last game of their careers to try to goad opposing