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H.S. Football Coach Suspends Entire Team Due to Character Issues

Playing football isn't a right for student-athletes; it's a privilege.

One Utah high school football coach drove that point home this past weekend by suspending all 80 members of his roster due to off-the-field character issues, according to the Deseret News.

"We felt like everything was going in a direction that we didn't want our young men going," said Union High School head coach Matt Labrum to the paper. "We felt like we needed to make a stand."

After a guidance counselor approached Labrum and his fellow coaches and told them that some of their players were cyberbullying a student in an anonymous online chat program called ask.fm, the coaches decided to spring into action.

Following the conclusion of the team's most recent game on Friday, the coaches told every member of the team to turn in their equipment. They held a 7 a.m. team meeting that next morning to detail the conditions the players would have to satisfy before re-earning their privilege to play this coming weekend.

According to the letter handed out by coaches (published online by the Deseret News), each player had to meet five specific criteria:

  • Attending all practices during the coming week;
  • Being "on time and totally prepared";
  • Earning no "F's" in their classes and having no discipline problems;
  • Doing an "individual service project" for their family, complete with a typed report, pictures, and a parental signature; and
  • Memorizing a quote about good character and reciting it to a coach during study hall.

Any player that accomplishes all five of those requirements by this evening will have the chance to play tomorrow and Friday; otherwise, they'll be benched this week.

According to the paper, parents of the team's players and school administrators were overwhelmingly supportive of the decision.

"These boys are not going to be hurt by this," said one parent, Jenn Rook, to the paper. "It's a good life lesson. ... It's not a punishment. I see it as an opportunity to do some good in the community."

It's hard not to draw a contrast between this and the San Francisco 49ers, who allowed defensive lineman Aldon Smith to play this past weekend two days after being arrested for driving under the influence. The 49ers' decision to play Smith reflects the winning-trumps-all attitude that's so pervasive throughout sports at all levels.

The Union High coaches clearly fall on the opposite end of that spectrum. 

[UPDATE (9/26, 1:30 p.m.): According to the latest from the Deseret News, all but nine of the suspended football players earned their jerseys back this week.]  

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