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Punishment fit the crime in New Ulm

October 28, 2009 - Per Peterson
We still don’t know what it was the 40 or so New Ulm students said during last week’s volleyball match that got them a two-week ban from attending any upcoming events. Might never know, but it must have been nasty.

We do know that the punishment that was handed down afterwards really cost the New Ulm football team.

The Eagles, who struggled to a 2-6 regular-season record this year, saw their season come to an unceremonious end Tuesday in a 55-13 loss to Hutchinson in the first round of the 2AAAA Tournament.

The incident at the volleyball match included 11 football players — 10 of them starters, the New Ulm Journal Web site said. Would the Eagles have beaten Hutch with their full complement of players? More than likely not — the Tigers haven’t lost since its Sept. 4 opener and have dominated every team they faced since a 47-7 win over Red Wing on Sept. 25 — but stranger things have happened in tournament football. Guess we’ll never know.

The real question is, did the punishment fit the crime?

Of course it did.

New Ulm is one of 400 Minnesota schools that are part of the Minnesota State High School League’s Good Sports Program, a “plan that drives the League’s vision for sportsmanship,” the MSHSL Web site said. The 14-year-old program challenges schools to develop a year-round sportsmanship program and submit it to the league office. The sportsmanship plan must include codes of conduct, promotional strategies, and a method to evaluate the effectiveness of the sportsmanship program. The League provides sportsmanship banners to schools enrolled in this program.

Good program, but apparently it’s not hitting home with some students. There are plenty of high school students out there who could care less about sportsmanship, but the fact that there were a good number of athletes involved in last week’s incident is sad. If anyone should realize the importance of good sportsmanship, it’s the student-athletes themselves, because they’re more often than not the targets of poor sportsmanship.

For them to drop the ball like that as fans is inexcusable. For parents and the school, it’s embarrassing.

Some might think it’s unfair to keep those football players from taking part in this year’s playoffs simply because it’s the playoffs, as opposed to a couple early- or mid-season games. Tough. The timing stinks, sure, but letting them play against Hutchinson would’ve been tantamount to a slap on the wrist.

Hopefully, something good comes of this, maybe a learned lesson or two. You feel bad for the players, their parents, the team and the coaches. Losing like that to end a down season is tough enough as it is. Taking the field without some of your best players makes it even worse.


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