NCHSAA denies appeal; season over for Salisbury, N. Rowan

Published 6:02 pm Friday, February 19, 2016

By Dennis Davidson

SALISBURY — For the boys basketball teams at Salisbury and North Rowan high schools, the season is over — again.

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association made that ruling on Tuesday and, after the Rowan Salisbury School System’s appeal on Wednesday, the initial decision was upheld Friday morning by the NCHSAA’s board of directors.

Dr. Art Paschal, the RSS’ athletic director, confirmed that the appeal was denied and ends the week-long saga that started last Friday night with a bench-clearing confrontation between the two teams at the end of the third quarter of their game at Salisbury.

The fact that the NCHSAA’s full 20-person board heard the appeal on Friday morning’s conference call was a late change. It was believed that the six-person executive board would rule on the appeal, but NCHSAA commissioner Que Tucker said urgency created the change.

Tucker said that had the executive committee denied the appeal, the schools could have appealed again to the full board anyway. And with the playoffs pending next week, having the full board involved from the beginning made sense.

As far as the appeal being denied, Tucker said that clear video footage that could overturn what the three game officials reported was just not available.

“In most instances, we get a video from the schools that shows a wide angle of both benches,” said Tucker. “In this case, that’s not what we had. And because spectators immediately rushed the court, it compromised the viewing of what exactly happened. Based on what we were able to see, we upheld the officials’ report because we did not have enough evidence to overturn it.”

Tucker added that had the camera shooting the game action been left on at the end of the third quarter, more could have been revealed. However, it had been turned off after the buzzer, which is customary for most game video personnel.

And, she said, it didn’t help that the crowd rushed the court.

“What spectators have to understand is that they need to have confidence in their coaches and other personnel to control any situation,” said Tucker. “Had the spectators not been on the floor, I believe that this would not have escalated. The administrators did a good job to control the situation, even with the fans on the court.

“And it’s always so disappointing that players feel that the only way that they can get justice, so to speak, is to act out like that,” continued Tucker. “You don’t settle disagreements by fighting. Not only do we want these kids to have fun and participate but, also, to learn life lessons. That’s why I love education-based athletics — because we can teach some valuable lessons that kids can take with them after graduation.”

The three game officials reported that most of the players on both teams have violated the rule of “leaving the bench area to participate in a fight (contact or no contact).  Rule 2.6.2 (a)(5).”

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The penalty for this violation, according to the NCHSAA handbook is the loss of 2016 basketball playoff privileges and a $1,000 fine.

RSS superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody led a team that crafted an appeal on Wednesday and this morning, a conference call was held in order for the local contingent to present its case to the NCHSAA’s board of directors.

The committee then talked privately and just before 11 a.m., informed RSS of its decision to uphold the original sanctions.

So the season ends for the state’s second-ranked team in 2A, North Rowan. The Cavaliers were 20-2 and poised to make a deep run into the playoffs.

Salisbury ends at 18-5 and would have also been selected for the playoffs.

The two schools are heated rivals, and North had defeated Salisbury earlier in Spencer and then held a commanding, 62-36 lead last Friday when frustration boiled over for at least one player.

When the third quarter ended and the teams were making their way back to their respective benches, Salisbury’s Shaleek Williams reportedly slapped North Rowan’s Jalen Sanders in the face, which began the uproar.

The players and coaches from both teams had stood up for the end of the quarter timeout, which led to pushing and shoving after Sanders was hit. Some fans almost immediately ran out onto the court, causing a worse situation.

The game officials ruled that all players that were off the bench for a fight were ejected —  which carries a four-game suspension for each individual. Tucker did say that the suspensions were reduced to two games for everyone involved except Williams.

NCHSAA rules also state that the limit for players leaving their benches during a fight is six. That number or greater results in disqualification from the state playoffs. Both Salisbury and North Rowan, unfortunately, had more than six players ejected for that reason, according to the game officials.

Administrators from RSS and the two high schools believed that the game officials should not have ejected everyone, that most players were not part of the incident on the court, thus the basis for the appeal.

“I’m disappointed but not really surprised,” said Paschal. “We accept the decision but that does not necessarily mean that we agree with it. We’ll try to learn from the situation and try to keep it from happening again.

“We gave them everything we had,” continued Paschal. “Outside of having (on video) every second of the incident from every angle, I don’t know what else we could have given them. I think we lost a little bit of leverage with all of the fans rushing the floor. When you see that on the video, it gives the impression that it’s worse than it is.”

Moody also expressed disappointment.

“We knew it would be highly unusual for an appeal to be overturned by the board,” said Moody. “However, I am very proud of our staff, principals and athletic directors who worked hard to appeal on behalf of the kids. They did an excellent job presenting our side … we just didn’t prevail.”

Moody also thanked members of the community who sent letters and video clips to the NCHSAA.

“I greatly appreciate the community support and hopefully, that support will continue as we move forward,” Moody said. “The silver lining out of all of this is that we talked about things to consider in the future, exactly what’s the best way for us to move forward from this.”

Moody agreed with Tucker in hoping that coaches will instruct their videographers to leave the camera on from a game’s start to its finish.