Following a nasty fighting incident during a game on Saturday involving fans and players from the Pike and Ben Davis girls basketball teams, the Indiana High School Athletic Association brought the hammer down by canceling the remainder of both teams’ seasons.
The fight broke out during the fourth quarter of the game on Saturday, and was ended afterwards with Pike ahead 57-41. The game was officially called a double forfeit.
IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox estimated that more than 50 people found their way onto the court, and called the incident “unacceptable, egregious and violent.”
“When you have something that is this dangerous, this violent and unacceptable with respect to our sportsmanship within our rules, swift and stern discipline has to be issued,” Cox told the Indianapolis Star.
In addition to the canceled seasons, both programs will face probation for the 2016-2017 season. Players and coaches from both teams will be required to complete online courses before they resume competing or coaching next season.
The decision comes after IHSAA officials met with the principals, athletic directors and coaches of both programs over the weekend to review the incident, which was caught on video. The school officials left the meeting without commenting, but Cox called their reaction to the penalties “supportive.”
“We take no pleasure in issuing these kinds of penalties, but its consistent and strong and determined in how we are going to administer sportsmanship in our state,” Cox said.
A similar situation unfolded in boys basketball last February, when a brawl broke out between players and fans from Griffith and Hammond High Schools. The IHSAA canceled seasons for both teams in that case as well, but three weeks later a civil court judge issued a temporary restraining order that allowed both teams to play in the state tournament.
Right now it’s unclear whether legal action will be taken in this case, though both teams had aspirations on deep tournament runs.
Cox said that video of the game showed that coaches and officials tried to get control throughout. Officials issued two double fouls and three technical before the fight broke out, and coaches called timeouts to try to calm their players down.
Both schools will be allowed to field junior varsity and freshmen level teams, provided that participants were not involved in the fight.
“I hope the message is that this is not going to be tolerated,” Cox said.