It will no doubt be a save situation.
A Sporting Step
Yes, there is something a little quaint and impractical about the Ohio Valley Conference's recent adoption of a wide-reaching sportsmanship policy. However, in an era when everyone complains about bad sportsmanship but no one docs anything about it, Ohio Valley commissioner Dan Beebe is to be congratulated for taking steps toward modifying the sometimes egregious behavior of athletes, coaches, officials, public-address announcers and fans during sporting events.
"We want to dispel the notion that it's appropriate to create a hostile environment for athletic contests," says Beebe. "We want to get back to the idea that sports are for fun and recreation."
Beebe is sickened by the poor sportsmanship that has overtaken athletics. "People's behavior can be changed," says Beebe. "institutions such as the ones in our conference, which are supposed to be teaching values, should be the leaders."
According to the Ohio Valley's new policy, which goes into effect this fall, after the coaches and captains receive a pre-game reminder about acting in a sportsmanlike manner, there will be no further warnings. That means infractions (yardage penalties or technical fouls, for example) will be assessed immediately for, as the policy says, "negative statements or actions, including taunting or baiting." Moreover, a coach who protests an unsportsmanlike call will be ejected at once.
The policy charges coaches to take the lead in reviving good sportsmanship because they "have the greatest amount of influence over whether the young people in their programs are taught and follow the high principles of sportsmanship." The policy urges coaches to take every opportunity "when addressing the media, booster groups or other public forums to express the desire for fans to support their team at home contests but not to abuse the visiting team."
Beebe says that the policy's provision for fan behavior, which warns that spectators may be expelled for "abusing the opposition and officials" and encourages fans to "applaud the effort by both institutions, even while supporting their own," has drawn the most criticism. "People want to know if we're going to march into the stands and toss people out if they boo," says Beebe. "Of course not. But we want to start changing the atmosphere of athletic contests. And we want that to come from the athletes and coaches themselves. When the participants start acting differently, the fans will follow. It's time to do something. This is a start."
It's a start other conferences—and maybe the entire NCAA—should follow.