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Cotey: Agree or disagree, FHSAA rules apply to all

Earlier this week, a baseball team was all but suspended from the postseason.

Then it got an injunction.

Then it got to play, despite a ruling from the state high school sports governing body that it could not.

And somewhere, 300 miles to the northwest, a football player or two at Nature Coast scratched his head.

Another probably swore.

A whole bunch are probably wondering, thinking, groaning:

Are you kidding me?

Here's the story: Miami Brito player bowls over the Lake Worth Trinity Christian catcher at the plate. Both benches empty.

The aftermath produced four-game suspensions for five players, and everyone else with the exception of the knocked-out catcher was suspended two games for leaving his position.

Is this ringing a bell yet?

You may recall, last year in a football game at South Lake, the lights went out and a brawl ensued.

Instead of a few players being suspended, the whole Nature Coast team was. The Sharks, a good bet to reach the Class 3A state title game and maybe even win a championship with their best team ever, had to forfeit their last regular-season game and were effectively barred from the postseason as well.

It was devastating.

So what's the difference between Trinity Christian and Nature Coast?

Nothing, according to Florida High School Athletic Association executive director Roger Dearing.

Players leave bench.

Players brawl.

Players get suspended.

Pretty simple stuff.

And yet, Trinity Christian got to play — and lost, so thank you forces of nature for correcting a horrible error — and Nature Coast didn't.

The judge got it right in the Sharks' case.

He's totally wrong in this one, so much so that it's hard to find any defense at all.

The FHSAA makes rules. It hires people to enforce them. Usually, that works.

In this case, three umpires filed the exact same reports, claiming Trinity Christian instigated the brawl, both benches emptied and players left their positions to engage each other.

In broad daylight.

And a neutral observer, the field administrator, corroborated the reports.

By comparison, Nature Coast and South Lake brawled in complete darkness, and three refs had to sort out roughly 100 players over a much larger area, while eye witness reports were wildly varied.

Yes, there are enough "unwritten" rules in baseball to make excuses for Trinity Christian and Brito's behavior, and based on comments I've been reading, plenty of people are willing to make them.

In baseball, retribution is heroic. Brush back that batter. Charge the mound. Take them out on the basepaths.

In football, you're a thug.

As dozens of teams across Tampa Bay play in spring football games, it is quiet at Nature Coast. As part of their punishment, the Sharks were stripped of their spring game.

So in Brooksville today, maybe you're a little confused.

Maybe you're wondering if Trinity Christian has better lawyers, because heck, Nature Coast had two weeks to build a case and failed, whereas Trinity Christian had 48 hours and succeeded.

Or maybe Port St. Lucie judges are a kinder lot than the robe-wearing, football-hating meanies in Brooksville.

You can't possibly think this is fair, but just hang in there.

Know this about the FHSAA — it will keep fighting this. It has never lost one of these injunction battles, and it seems pretty doubtful that streak is in jeopardy.

I predict when the final verdict is rendered, the FHSAA will be vindicated, and Trinity Christian will be slapped with $2,500 fines for each of the 15 or so players who competed Wednesday.

I don't necessarily agree with the FHSAA's system of fines, or the fact that it seems so smug about them at times.

However, Trinity Christian's baseball coach and athletic director, by not declaring such behavior was unacceptable, may have left it with no choice.

John C. Cotey can be reached at [email protected]

Cotey: Agree or disagree, FHSAA rules apply to all 05/22/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 22, 2009 8:42pm]
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