By Colin Dunlap

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PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Some punishment was justified — and wholly necessary — for what we saw happen when Clairton and Monessen decided to turn a high school basketball game into an all-out melee last week.

There were kicks, there were punches and bodyslams — I was watching the thing yelling “Worldstar!” the whole time. Man, it was ugly.

But, to me at least, the WPIAL stepped in and seemed a bit over-officious here (aren’t they always), without thinking of the true off-shoots that could come from the punishments it handed down.

In short, the WPIAL put both athletic departments on a five-year probation, effective immediately. If there are any violations in that five years, that sport or the offending individual will not be eligible for tournaments that season and loss of scheduling by the WPIAL for the two seasons thereafter. Wow. That’s heavy handed.

This season, both teams will be permitted to play in the playoffs while some of the players serve what — to me — are just suspensions of a game. In addition, Clairton must play all home varsity basketball games at 4 p.m. for the next two seasons and when Clairton and Monessen play, the gym will be closed to spectators.

Lastly, Clairton and Monessen will only be allotted 30 advance tickets to each game these upcoming basketball playoffs and no tickets will be sold at the door.

Both schools have a right to appeal the decision.

Know what? I hope they do.

Here is why — most of the decision I agree with, but what seems to be incredibly asinine and short-sighted is the five-year probation with such a steep penalty. This has the potential to open an enormous can of worms down the road.

First, it essentially and potentially punishes kids who are in fourth grade right now. Think about that for a moment, as kids in fourth grade right now will be freshmen when the penalties are still enveloping the athletic programs. That, to me at least, is punitive and exorbitant.

Now, do not take this as me sticking up for either Clairton or Monessen (because they needed to be punished for their actions) but can’t you see a situation — and one that lasts for five years — where either one of those schools could now be the target of goading, provoking, inciting and needling with the understanding that there is no way they can retaliate. Or, at the very least, if they retaliate, the punishment for them is far more severe than the one you are going to receive if you are the aggressor.

Again, Clairton and Monessen deserved huge punishment, but making kids who were in elementary school at the time of these transgressions potentially still pay for the “crime” of those much older seems ludicrous.

Perhaps the WPIAL could have scaled back that punishment to a timeline in which all the student/athlete participants in the fight were swept through the school system and then ended the sanctions.

On top of that, I know I have seen at least three different videos of the fight. Logic tells me there are probably more circulating and most likely scouting film from both teams that played and also third-party teams that were there watching these teams in anticipation of the playoffs. Rather than these wide-swathing sanctions, why couldn’t the administrators of the school, in concert with community leaders, the WPIAL and police, get together and watch the films? And then, during that endeavor, identify the true culprits and people who committed the egregious acts and bar them from games. Neither Clairton or Monessen are big places — everyone knows who was out on the floor throwing blows and, more so, there is a good chance it is on film. Punish those people, not everyone.

Certainly, the players, teams and athletic departments should take a hit. They should be hammered with some sanctions because what we saw was a tremendously ugly incident.

But five years needing to be on your best behavior because, in reality, the fight was exacerbated by people who came out of the stands and weren’t on the team? I find that a bit much by the WPIAL; a bit over the top by the guys in those WPIAL sport jackets.  ​