NEW PORT RICHEY — The boys basketball programs at Gulf and Ridgewood have been put on probation after a brawl Friday that sparked a criminal investigation.
The rival programs were given reprimands and placed on administrative and restrictive probation through the end of the 2013-14 school year under sanctions announced by the Florida High School Athletic Association on Wednesday evening.
Restrictive probation often includes a postseason ban, but it is not expected to in this case. The FHSAA defines the penalty as more severe than administrative probation “with the additional consequence of restriction from participation in championship competition in one or more sports, or other restrictions deemed appropriate by the Executive Director.” In this instance, the FHSAA has required every player on the varsity and JV programs at both schools to complete a sportsmanship program by Feb. 23.
Five Ridgewood players and two Gulf players were suspended by the FHSAA, spokesman Corey Sobers said, but the lengths of their punishments were not available Wednesday evening. The schools indefinitely suspended 13 players — nine from Ridgewood and four from Gulf — Tuesday while they awaited the FHSAA’s ruling.
Ridgewood was also fined $1,150 — $250 each from three level-two unsportsmanlike conduct suspensions and $100 each from four other instances of unsportsmanlike conduct. Gulf received no fines.
The penalties stem from a brawl that broke out in the stands late in Ridgewood’s 56-55 victory at Gulf. According to a report by the game officials, a scuffle began among fans shortly after the buzzer, as players were headed to their benches.
“Immediately, fans began running out of the stands to get out of the way,” the official wrote.
The officials observed all but one Ridgewood player leave the bench but said they could not see whether any punches were thrown. One Gulf player also left the bench, according to the report.
Officers from the New Port Richey Police Department were called. The Pasco Sheriff’s Office is working with Gulf on a criminal investigation.
According to a letter from the FHSAA to Gulf, charges have been filed against the fans who started the incident, and all other individuals involved have met with school administrators. Ridgewood is also instituting meetings with parents and athletes before each sport season.
Gulf coach Travis Priddy declined to comment, and Ridgewood coach Derek Delgardo could not be reached Wednesday evening. The schools can appeal the rulings.
Ridgewood (11-8) has become one of the top playoff contenders in Class 5A, District 8, while Gulf (6-10) has had a solid season in Priddy’s first year.