LAURINBURG — A big topic of conversation among the Southeastern Conference coaches on Sunday afternoon at their annual media day was the emphasis on cutting down the use of profanity and improving sportsmanship.
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) recently enacted a zero tolerance policy for all sports when it comes to inappropriate language and profanity.
Neil Buie, the regional supervisor for the Southeastern NC Sports Officials, LLC., was on hand to inform the coaches about the rule changes and how they could have a dramatic impact on the upcoming season.
“In the past officials would lend a deaf ear to profanity, as long as it wasn’t directed at an official,” Buie said. “That’s not going to be the case necessarily this year.”
The new rules state that head coaches and assistant coaches get two unsportsmanlike penalties per game, after the second offense the head coach is ejected.
Where the problem arises is that any penalty incurred by an assistant coach is also charged to the head coach. If two assistant coaches each get one penalty the head coach is ejected because he’s hit his two penalty limit.
“So Coach Bailey could get ejected without ever saying a word,” said Buie.
The unsportsmanlike penalties could also be handed down to coaches who direct their profanity at an athlete on the sidelines.
“In the past if a player comes off the field and a coach is pretty animated with his lack of performance and talks to him in a serious manner, that might include some things your mama might not like you to say. If an official hears a coach do that this year, that’s going to be penalized,” said Buie.
Scotland High School coach Richard Bailey didn’t think the rule changes would affect the game too much, but he says it will be interesting to see how they play out over the first few games of the season.
“I don’t think you’ll see a big change,” he said. “I think the biggest thing is coaches need to be very aware of how they’re talking to officials. We don’t need to be using profanity anyway because we’re supposed to be modeling the type of behavior we want from our kids,” Bailey said. “Personally, it’s not going to be a problem. Don’t get me wrong, I get heated with the officials, but I usually leave that part of the dictionary out of my conversations.”
Bailey and Buie both admitted there could be some officials who are sticklers for the new rules changes and will flag any off color word they hear.
“There will probably be some officials that are hyper vigilant and they’ll hear some profanity off in the distance and get flag happy,” said Bailey.
Buie doesn’t think players are going to be the biggest offenders when it comes to unsportsmanlike penalties, in terms of profanity, but does admit the back and forth banter that takes place on the field might earn some players a flag.
“Years ago, when I was on the field, we had a game Hoke County versus Richmond County,” he said. “Hoke had a running back who was pretty good and he came through the line and someone just stuck him right at the line of scrimmage. He (running back) said to the kid that tackled him, ‘that didn’t hurt.’ The kid said ‘well, bring your ass through here again and we’ll see if we can make it hurt.’ Would that be penalized this year? Yes, it could be. Is it going to be? I hope not.”
If players direct their profanity at an official it’s a 15-yard penalty, the second time it’s an automatic ejection and a one-game suspension in football. All other sports it’s a two-game suspension.
According to the NCHSAA there were 329 player ejections during the 2015 football season — 16.4 percent or 54 times it was due to profanity. The majority of the ejections were for fighting, 35.9 percent, but both profanity and fighting are considered unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
Improving sportsmanship, in all high school sports, is something the NCHSAA and the NFHS is taking very seriously.
“The biggest thing is the sportsmanship,” said Bailey.
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.