At least eight high school basketball programs in Indiana are on probation for the 2011-12 school year after recent brawls prompted fans and coaches to leave their seats. One more bad move, reports Indianapolis' WXIN-TV, and the teams could get yanked from state tournament play - or even dropped from the Indiana State High School Athletic Association.
"There are rules at the NCAA and NBA level[s] that are pretty concrete that say when you leave the bench it's an automatic ejection," ISHAA commissioner Bobby Cox told the station. The NBA actually goes one step further and automatically suspends any player who leaves the bench.
The latest incident occurred Friday night when Tim Bass from Indy's North Central High School and Michael Chandler from Lawrence North High School began fighting. The benches cleared, as security stepped in to separate the players. Bass and Chandler were both ejected, and video footage of the altercation also shows North Central's star player D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera slugging a Lawrence North player - a move that got him suspended from this weekend's regional semifinal game against Indy's Pike High. "You can never throw a punch," Cox said. "And the video clearly shows there was an assault." North Central ultimately won the game, 62-59. (Smith-Rivera was allowed to play in last Saturday's game, an 83-61 win over Lawrence Central in the sectional championship, while ISHAA administrators sorted out the previous night's incident.)
Other schools on ISHAA probation next year include Morocco's North Newton, Whiting, East Chicago Central, Gary Wallace, Anderson and Marion.
Additionally, the ISHAA may consider enacting a rule to eject a player who leaves the bench without a coach's approval. In all of the brawls leading to the suspensions, the incidents reportedly were prompted when players stormed the court.
For now, though, probation seems to have satisfied state association administrators. "It's an indication to the schools that this type of behavior will not be tolerated further, and if there are further incidents, then more severe penalties will be issued," Cox told WRTV in Indianapolis. "When you have incidents like this, it's never a good thing."
But North Central's Smith-Rivera doesn't seem fazed. "We're moving forward," he said after the Lawrence North game. "We're not paying attention to that. It's unfortunate that it happened, but stuff like that happens."