ESCANABA - The state's high school athletic governing body has addressed an issue about fan conduct but did not take any action on a letter written by an area administrator.
North Central High School athletic director Pete Anderla sent a letter to the Michigan High School Athletic Association April 10 in hopes the group could devise stiffer penalties regarding fan conduct and not penalize the participating teams.
The letter was prompted by an incident at a Class D boys basketball district tournament game at Carney-Nadeau High School March 7. A fan, who was later identified as a North Central graduate, threw a bottle onto the gym floor with three seconds left and North Central leading C-N 55-54.
The three referees met with both coaches and game officials before assessing a technical foul on North Central. The sequence ended with North Central making the two foul shots as a result of the play, C-N making two technical free throws and then a basket at the buzzer to win 58-57.
Anderla asked the MHSAA to come up with a solution to fan misconduct, hoping the referees and game officials would be given more control to handle those situations.
The MHSAA, meeting last month in Gaylord, responded to celebrations by student-athletes and spectators that resulted in property damage and instituted new language to address those situations. However, no action was taken on Anderla's letter.
Anderla was disappointed at the lack of action, but not surprised since he had been told the national federation would probably have to change its rules before the MHSAA could act.
"We just need a little more power than what we're getting," Anderla said Wednesday after a reporter read him the MHSAA release. "I don't ever want to see this happen and a team gets penalized because of the behavior of a fan."
He would like to see the MHSAA survey state schools to come up with a solution. He noted the MHSAA did a survey this spring that created a rule change to allow certain modifications to allow age-eligibility waivers following an appeal of an Ishpeming High School student, Eric Dompierre, who has Downs Syndrome and will be 19 when school resumes.
That age waiver was approved by the MHSAA following the survey.
"Every athletic director and game manager has the same situation," Anderla said of dealing with unruly fans. "Fans badger officials, yell at players and officials. We should make a mandatory penalty for someone to get kicked out. Don't penalize the team but penalize the fan."
Fans are spectators and not participants, so Anderla does not understand why the athletes should suffer for something they did not do or have any control over.
"If you have state backing that you will be eliminated from athletic sports attendance for what is the magic number, a week, a month, a year, it would get people to think (about their actions)," he said.
Game officials have the option to remove fans or seek police intervention, but in this situation the game was almost over before anything happened.
"There is always a little section where one starts acting up and the next one joins in, and occasionally it gets out of control," said Anderla. "Eventually it gets to the point where it gets crazy.
"It is a way of finally maybe putting a stop to unsportsmanlike conduct of fans. It is getting crazy. Not just high school sports but college sports, pro sports, the whole works."
Anderla stressed he had nothing against the officials who made the decision of a technical foul in the game. "They have a tough job to do and they did what (they thought) was right at the time.
"But if they had another option where they knew the penalty would be severe enough, a (fan) suspension from games, maybe that wouldn't happen. If the referees stop the game, about 50 fans would have pointed fingers at the person who threw the bottle."