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The Salt Lake Tribune
September 25, 2013 Wednesday
SPORTS; Prep Sports
|Prep football: Union will play after coach suspended entire team
By Aaron Falk The Salt Lake Tribune
Upset with poor treatment of teachers, dipping grades and a possible case of cyber bullying, the football coaches at Union High School in the Uinta Basin decided to take a drastic step this week.
He suspended the entire team.
Union coach Matt Labrum told his players there would be a team meeting even before Friday night's 40-16 loss to Judge Memorial. In an emotional locker room exchange after the defeat, Labrum made each player turn in his jersey.
If he wanted it back before the next game, he would have to earn it.
"It's not all about winning games," Labrum said. "This is about developing young men to go on and be fathers and be positive community members and be employable."
The discontent among the coaching staff with the players had been growing for some time.
"It's just a combination of things," Labrum said Wednesday. Players were missing classes, disrespecting teachers "and our grades aren't where they need to be."
But the report of a possible cyber bullying incident was the last straw. A student went to the school's administration with claims that he was being harassed online by people he believed were part of the football team. The harassment was anonymous, Labrum said, and while the coach did not believe the problem involved many players, he wanted to take a stand.
"If one member has a problem, then we're all going to help fix it," Labrum said.
So for the first half of this week, football practices in Roosevelt do not involve Xs and Os.
The team met Monday for a "character lesson" at the local junior high school. After that, players spent the afternoon cleaning up around the high school, weeding and picking up trash. Tuesday was spent at senior citizen centers in town, talking with residents and playing games.
"Those are our practices," Labrum said. "Those are our practice times. We're just practicing some different skills."
Wednesday, the team's regular study hall day, will be spent completing school work, but also delivering reports on extra service the players have been required to complete and reciting from memory a quote about character.
After that's done, players will resume regular practices Thursday and Friday morning in advance of a game against Emery High. Players did do conditioning on their own this week, and the coach said he believes his team will be fine to play Friday night.
"Whether we have 11 or more, we'll have enough to have a team," Labrum said.
Emery coach Jim Jones said he was unaware of any potential problems at Union until Wednesday.
"I just barely talked to their AD and head coach," he said. "They are planning on playing both a JV game and a freshman game, as well as the game Friday night. Today's the first conversation I've had. ... Everything is a go as far as I know."
Twitter: @aaronfalk --
September 25, 2013