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FIRST-PERSON: Punishment with purpose

MULKEYTOWN, Ill. (BP)–A group of football players from an Alton, Ill., high school were so happy with their team’s first-round playoff win Nov. 1 that they probably managed to sabotage the rest of their season.

Ten starters from the undefeated Alton Marquette Explorers have been suspended for this weekend’s second-round game after they were arrested for underage drinking at a party Friday night. Some real geniuses, to be sure.

Those suspended include the team’s two top quarterbacks, leading rusher and several key defensive players. Their irresponsibility most likely will cost the Explorers (10-0), the top-ranked team in the state in their division, any chance of a win over the Anna-Jonesboro Wildcats in Saturday’s second-round playoff matchup.

All told, police arrested 33 students at last weekend’s house party, hosted by a 17-year-old girl whose parents were out of town on vacation. It’s a shame these absent parents can’t be reprimanded for their naiveté. No more vacations for the next five years, or something like that. But that’s another matter.

“As it stands now, we are aware of 13 football players who were involved,” Marquette principal John Rogers told the Alton Telegraph. “They are done for the rest of the season. It doesn’t matter if they were charged [by the police] or not. The student activities code says that if you are at a party where alcohol is served, you can be suspended for up to 25 percent of the season. It’s the same for drama or any other school activity.”

Head football coach Mike Slaughter supported the decision. “We on this coaching staff are very big on responsibility and accountability,” Slaughter told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The penalty must be enforced.”

I applaud the school administrators who took quick, decisive action against the students. It will undoubtedly be an unpopular decision. The Alton Marquette administration will probably face a deluge of complaints from angry parents who think the penalty too severe.

If they do, this will demonstrate one reason why these kids are so irresponsible — because their parents are. Administrators should stick with their original decision and not back down from parents who may press for a lighter penalty. And the school board should back the original ruling. These students should learn from this episode that actions carry consequences, and they shouldn’t get out of this because a few parents succeeded in making a lot of noise.

It’s too bad a few irresponsible students will end up ruining a good season for the rest of the team who didn’t break the rules. These kids worked hard this season, and they deserve better. The Explorers had a decent chance of winning a state championship this year, but it will take a miracle for Marquette to win Saturday’s game.

These immature football players have disappointed a lot of people. They’ve let down their teammates, other students at the school, parents, school officials and local fans. I’m sure they didn’t mean for any of this to happen, but they should have thought about that before making such a foolish decision. Maybe this situation will teach them some lessons that will last a lifetime.

And maybe because of it they’ll grow up just a little.
Ellsworth is a regular columnist on BP Sports, at www.bpsports.net.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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