Commonwealth Journal

November 9, 2013

State association’s punishment of MMS players heavy-handed

by Jeff Neal
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — Football in the Somerset Independent School System has long been a source of pride.

Its legacy is filled with glorious performances, sparkling seasons and championships.

Last week, the Meece Middle football program was robbed of a shot at the 2013 state title, when the Kentucky Middle School Football Association declared the Jumpers ineligible for its semifinal clash with Edmonson County. It also ruled that all of Meece’s 2013 victories be vacated.

The issue at hand was the eligibility of one player. According to the middle school association guidelines, no player who turns 15 before Aug. 1 will be eligible to play. Meece allegedly used a player who, according to the KYMSFA, was 15 prior to Aug. 1.

The initial ruling by the association last Wednesday was that Meece’s veteran head coach, Max Messamore, be suspended for the remainder of the playoffs.

Certainly that ruling is harsh — but it’s also fair.

If an ineligible player was used  — and one would assume that the player was used unknowingly — then it seems reasonable to punish the adult responsible for the infraction.

Had the association stopped right there, it would have done its job in a credible manner.

But on Friday, the KYMSFA took its punishment of the Meece program to a different level. One that is at best heavy-handed and at worst simply cruel and unreasonable.

The KYMSFA “board” voted to ban the Jumpers from the state’s championship weekend and forfeit all 12 of their previous games.

My question is simple: What happened between Wednesday and Friday to shift punishment from the man ultimately responsible for the problem onto a group of young boys who have played their hearts out all season to reach this point?

Were more infractions discovered? According to board member Jeremy Bass, the issue at hand was the eligibility of a single player. That did not change from Wednesday to Friday.

Even evidence solidifying the board’s position that an ineligible player was used should not have altered its original decision.

My take is simple: The young men who play for Meece Middle were in no way responsible for this screw-up. And they should not have been punished in this manner.

The coach’s suspension should have been enough.

By denying the Meece program the right to participate, the state association is guilty of overkill in the worst way.

What it did to the boys who play at Meece is far worse than using a player who turned 15 a few days before Aug. 1.