Berkeley Prep LB Joe Schiano's suspension: Open for interpretation?

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Mon. October 22, 2012 | John C. Cotey | Email

His suspension was reduced from six games to four for swearing toward an official, but a letter in support of Berkeley Prep linebacker Joe Schiano, son of Tampa Bay Bucs coach Greg Schiano, is enough to make one wonder if the sophomore didn't deserve more of a break.

In a letter to Berkeley Prep coach Dominick Ciao and athletic director Bobby Reinhart, Greg C. Kaiser, vice president of football for the West Coast Officials Association, writes: "We agree and support your appeal to the FHSAA regarding the lengthy suspension of your player (Schiano, though the name is redacted). The late hit was cleary enforced against the wrong team, for (redacted, Schiano) was the victim of the hit and not the aggressor."

Kaiser adds that he showed the video evidence to the referee who made the call, and "he too supports your appeal and believes the suspension on (Schiano) should be adjusted,'' and admits to a number of other calls being missed in the Sept. 28 game and apologizes for his crew's performance. 

Schiano was suspended for using profanity toward a referee during a game against Lennard. He received a Level 2 suspension, determined to be six weeks by the Florida High School Athletic Association and effectively ending his season.

Berkeley Prep's first appeal was rejected. The FHSAA did reduce the suspension after the second, however, from six games to four, which will allow Schiano to return for the two final regular-season games.

According to FHSAA spokesman Corey Sobers, "the initial appeal was denied in large part because the focus of the appeal was on the official's call being incorrect. While the FHSAA would like the officials to get every call right ideally, an incorrect call is not an excuse to use profanity towards an official.''

Sobers is absolutely correct. However, some at Berkeley Prep have argued that it certainly deserves to be taken into consideration after a tense night where a number of illegal hit calls were missed and a player suffers a late hit and then gets flagged for it, causing him to react poorly. Do they have a point? 

Consider this though: The FHSAA imposes penalties solely on the word of officials and what they have written in their reports, effectively rendering players guilty until proven innocent.

Sure, there is an appeals process. Already this season, Largo's Harry Brown, Countryside's Zach Rosinzki and Freedom's Nate Godwin have been suspended six weeks based on referee reports before video evidence presented in an appeal had their penalties reduced or eliminated all together.

But shouldn't the referees' words mean just as much, after they have been able to view film and reflect on the game, in an appeal as it does a few hours after the game when they file their initial reports upon which the FHSAA moves quickly to suspend players?

Apparently not. Sobers said the letter was "not a factor at all" in the decision to reduce Schiano's penalty.

It all depends on how you read the letter, according to Sobers.

Is Kaiser asking that Schiano be allowed back onto the field immediately, in full support of the appeal, or merely supporting a reduction in the length of the penalty, which the Buc received?

Or, as the FHSAA reads the letter and Sober writes, "the officials association did not support the appeal from the standpoint of reducing the games because the ruling was "too harsh." They were supporting it because of the missed calls that were acknowledged in the letter under a false assumption that the suspension was based on wrong calls causing a reaction."

Sobers wrote that is a very important distinction.

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