You are on page 1of 13

DECISION OF EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE PANEL

IN RE: INTERMOUNAIN CHRISTIAN SCHOOL v. TABIONA HIGH SCHOOL

On May 20, 2019, the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA or
Association) convened a Panel of five members of the Executive Committee (Panel)
to hear allegations brought by Intermountain Christian School (ICS) against
Tabiona High School claiming violations of the Association’s Sportsmanship Rules
and other matters, such as lack of institutional control. Tabiona High School
(Tabiona) denied the allegations and asserted a ‘counter-claim” against ICS for
violations of the Sportsmanship rules and other matters, such as lack of
institutional control. The Panel will discuss and resolve all these issues in this
Decision.

ICS was represented by its lawyer, Frank Mylar, together with Andrew
Hopkins, Jill Johnson, and Jeremy Ferkin. Also appearing for ICS was Mitch
Menning, the head of the school. Tabiona was represented by its lawyer, Blake
Ostler, together with the principal of Tabiona, Darin Jenkins.

Over a period of nearly six hours, the parties presented evidence to the Panel.
The Panel received all the offered evidence. At the conclusion of the evidence,
counsel for each party presented a closing argument. The Panel announced it would
take the matter under advisement and issue a written decision.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUD

There is no question that a strong, intense basketball rivalry exists between


ICS and Tabiona.

On January 18, 2019, a basketball game was played between ICS and
Tabiona at ICS. During the game, an ICS student heard a Tabiona fan, identified as
Leon Casper, direct the following words toward the ICS coach, Tim Drisdom, who is
African-American: “Go home blackie. Blackie go home.” The student, who was
confused by the statement, which he said was very loud, turned to the Tabiona fan
and expressed that those words were inappropriate. The fan replied, “[W]ell, he is a
negro isn't he?”

Coach Drisdom did not hear the slurs. No one from the Tabiona
administration heard the slurs. No one from the ICS administration heard the
slurs. The Tabiona fan’s actions were not reported to either school until after the
game. The student who heard the slurs reported to his father who reported to the
school

During the game, two Tabiona fans were ejected. The game was emotionally
charged and Coach Drisdom testified that he noticed a Tabiona bench player: “[W]e
made eye contact and he's rah-rahing toward me.” Coach Drisdom made a mental
note of this behavior. When the game ended, and ICS lost, Coach Drisdom was
“upset.” As he went to the lineup to shake hands, he saw the bench player coming
toward him and grabbed the player’s hand and held him. Coach Drisdom testified
that he said, “you don't disrespect another adult like that and you're not about that
life . . ..” The player testified that Coach Drisdom said, “[I]f you ever look at me like
that again, you'll lose your life.” The player reported what he believed he heard to
his father who reported it to the school.

On the next school day, the administrations of both schools testified that they
immediately took steps to prevent any of these events from recurring.

In the following days, there were optimistic discussions between the schools.
Coach Drisdom and Principal Jenkin seemed to have come to an agreement about
the way forward. Both testified that they had no reason to expect anything except a
highly competitive game. Principal Jenkins told Coach Drisdom that he had
“beefed” up law enforcement, made everyone aware of the problem, and that ICS
should be good to come.

That game took place on February 15, 2019 in Tabiona. Coach Drisdom
testified that while he coached the JV game, he spotted a man who was sitting
across the gym and who was clapping and yelling. After Coach Drisdom and the
man made eye contact, the man mouthed the words, "you're an asshole." Coach
Drisdom noticed that the man was using oxygen and believed it was the same man
who had made the racial slurs in the prior game.

Coach Drisdom found Principal Jenkins across the gym and told him what
had happened. Coach Drisdom assumed that the matter would be handled. The
varsity girls team was on the floor warming up when one or two policemen came
and ask Coach Drisdom to meet in the hallway. Coach Drisdom asked Mitch
Menning, the head of ICS to join them. In the hall Coach Drisdom, Mr. Menning,
Principal Jenkins and Officers Nye and Reilly talked for approximately 10 minutes
in which there was a request by Mr. Menning that Mr. Casper be removed from the
game.

Principal Jenkins told Coach Drisdom and Mr. Menning that Mr. Casper
could not be removed. The officers also said they did not have authority to remove
him. Mr. Menning then asked if Mr. Casper could be moved from his seat “front and
center” to a position behind the Tabiona bench so that there would be no further
interaction with Coach Drisdom. Principal Jenkins told Mr. Menning that Mr.
Casper was on oxygen and that the only spot in the gym with an electrical outlet for
the oxygen was where Mr. Casper was sitting. Principal Jenkins further told Mr.
Menning that ejecting or moving Mr. Casper would result in more racial slurs being
made by Mr. Casper.

Mr. Casper was not removed or relocated. He sat “front and center.”

Coach Drisdom testified that at that point he considered cancelling the game,
but he decided to go forward. There was testimony from Alli Harrison that during
the first half Tabiona fans (unidentified) were taunting the ICS players. Coach
Longoria’s testimony confirmed that fact. Coach Drisdom testifies that the Tabiona
fans were specifically taunting CK and referenced a video clip that shows Tabiona
fans clearly yelling at CK in an aggressive fashion. CK testified that the Tabiona
fans yelled “"make his bitch ass go cry home to his mommy and daddy," and similar
personal insults.

CK turned to the fans and told them to “shut the “F” up and to “F” off.” The officials
called a technical foul, which was CK’s second of the game and he was disqualified.
Ms. Harrison also testified that as the half ended, an unidentified fan said, “get the
N the F out of here.”

When time ran out for the first half, Coach Drisdom, according to Mr.
Menning, went to the referees and said, “Either we're going to call a fair game or
we're going home.” The referees called a technical foul on Coach Drisdom.

From the videos admitted into evidence and from his own testimony, Coach
Drisdom was extremely upset by the seeming combination of events he thought
should have been remedied before the game. Mr. Menning, Mr. Ferkin, and Coach
Drisdom left the court to go to the visiting locker room. The Panel has viewed the
soundless video clip of the events in the hall joining the visitors’ locker room with
the home locker room and has carefully considered the testimony of those who were
involved, and concludes that the operative facts are those which support the
following narrative of the events in the hall.

Using the frame of reference of the video, those connected with ICS were at
the far end of the hallway. Tabiona was at the near end. Mr. Menning and Mr.
Ferkin escorted Coach Drisdom to far end of the hallway. Along with Mr. Ferkin
and Coach Drisdom, there is an ICS parent, Duane Koski, the father of the ICS
player who had been disqualified just before halftime. The testimony and the video
confirm that Tabiona’s Coach Gines and Michael Wagner came into the hallway. It
is apparent on the video, confirmed by testimony, that Coach Gines was animated
and was gesticulating and speaking toward the ICS personnel. Mr. Wagner
physically attempted to push Coach Gines into the locker room. At this point, Mr.
Koski and Coach Drisdom were returning comments to Tabiona.

Mr. Ferkin testified that Coach Gines had been yelling down the hallway and
was antagonizing Coach Drisdom. Mr. Ferkin testified that he had repeatedly
requested that Mr. Wagner move Coach Gines into the locker room, but Coach
Gines resisted, even stepping toward the ICS end.

The yelling continued until the ICS parent, Mr. Koski, ran down the hallway
toward Coach Gines. Only the skill and sanity of Mr. Ferkin prevented an even
more difficult situation as he followed Mr. Koski down the hall and blocked him
from Coach Gines. Mr. Ferkin backed Mr. Koski up the hallway and only then did
the confrontation end.

While the coaching staff and administrators of both schools were menacing
each other in the hallway, Officer Nay had been sitting next to Mr. Casper. During
half time, Mr. Casper asked Officer Nay what had happened on the court. Officer
Nay told Mr. Casper that Coach Drisdom had been given a technical foul. Mr.
Casper replied “the fucking nigger deserved it.”

Mercifully, the game ended.

I. THE OVERT RACISM OF CERTAIN TABIONA FANS AND ITS


ACCOMODATION.

All parties agree that the conduct of a fan yelling of racial slurs in the confines of
a high school basketball game is morally reprehensible and unacceptable. No
rational person in these times could disagree and perhaps could even describe the
event in even more colorful language. In the game played at ICS on January 18,
2019, Mr. Leon Casper revealed himself to be a racist. The words even he admits to
yelling evidence a reflexive and foul and irrational prejudice, sufficient to permit
him to use explosive and inciting slurs. Additionally, the excuse he gave for the
slurs, when confronted by a student—“he is a negro, isn’t he”--- tell us that he
believes his words were appropriate.

Mr. Casper’s willingness to shout racist slurs created a clear and present danger
to the students attending that basketball game. Historically, racial slurs and the
prejudice that accompanies them have led to violence.

Not unexpectedly, his racism continued into the game at Tabiona. He felt so free
to use those foul terms that he was willing to tell a policeman that “the fucking
nigger deserved it,” referring to a technical foul called on Coach Drisdom.

There was also evidence that tended to show similar racial statements at the
Tabiona game, but the identity of the speakers was not made clear. Additionally,
Camille Clegg, the principal of Manila High School, presented evidence that there
had been racist statements made by Tabiona fans at Manila basketball games.
Again, the identity of the fans was unclear.

All these facts, including the overt racism of Mr. Casper, were known to Tabiona
High School before the game with ICS. Nevertheless, Principal Jenkins assured
Coach Drisdom that he had taken measures to assure safety, including beefing up
law enforcement and making everyone aware of the problems. Whatever Principal
Jenkins did in good faith to avoid trouble was not enough.

Although Tabiona was well aware of Mr. Casper’s behavior, he roamed the gym
unchecked. He clapped and yelled until he caught Coach Drisdom’s attention in the
JV game and called him an “asshole.” ICS complained to Tabiona, but nothing
happened. Considering Mr. Casper’s history with ICS, he should have been removed
from the building at that point. He was not.

Worse yet, he was given a seat, “front and center” across the gym from Coach
Drisdom. The only reasonable inference Coach Drisdom could take from that
prominent placement of a known racist was that Tabiona was complicit in his
behavior. When ICS asked Tabiona to remove Mr. Casper or at least move him from
Coach Drisdom’s line of sight, Tabiona said Mr. Casper had to sit where he was
because his oxygen machine was plugged into the outlet at that spot.

Because Coach Drisdom, his players, the ICS administration and their fans were
aware of Mr. Casper’s racist comments and behavior, Principal Jenkins’ failure to
remove Mr. Casper or to ameliorate the effect of him in that gym by moving him,
reasonably created anxiety, distrust, and anger in all of them. The feelings on both
sides predictably exploded at half time.

The Association places responsibility on the principal of a high school for


compliance with all Association rules and policies including Sportsmanship and
Institutional Control.

ARTICLE 7

SECTION 1: Responsibility of Principals

A. It shall be the duty and responsibility of the principal or equivalent


executive officer of a member school to determine that participants have met
all eligibility requirements, to assure institutional control over all athletic
participation and to maintain an atmosphere of compliance throughout the
school and among the parents and those with a particular interest in the
athletic programs of the school, i.e. boosters.

B. The principal or equivalent executive officer shall be ultimately


responsible for a school’s non-compliance with the Association’s Rules.

The Panel finds that Tabiona High School and Principal Jenkins have violated
the Association’s Sportsmanship Rules and have lacked institutional control in their
responsibly to supervise and control Mr. Casper after they had been advised of his
racist behavior in the game at ICS, then again in Tabiona, after they had been
advised that he had sought out Coach Drisdom to call him an asshole, then again
when they failed to remove him from the building, and then when they failed to
move him out of the line of sight of Coach Drisdom.

In this Panel’s opinion, it was extraordinarily unsportsmanlike to place a man


who had called Coach Drisdom “blackie” and “asshole” directly in front of him in his
coaching position and refuse to remove him. It is more than reasonably foreseeable
that Coach Drisdom and his players would be unnecessarily upset, anxious, fearful,
angry, and otherwise districted by this series of events. It is also reasonably
foreseeable that in those circumstances, the players and coach may have acted out
of anger and may not have played to their best ability because of this remarkable
and preventable distraction. It is not lost on this panel that the winning of this
game had broad consequences.

Principal Jenkins and his staff had many opportunities and methods to avoid
these problems. First and foremost, if Tabiona believed it could not ban Mr. Casper
from the game in Tabiona after his racist outburst, they could have told him, before
the games, that he would have to sit behind the Tabiona student section or another
far less visible sight, and that when he arrived at the gym, an administration
“minder” would be assigned to be with him during the entire series of games. When
Principal Jenkins learned that Mr. Casper had sought out Coach Drisdom to call
him an “asshole,” he should have removed him from the building. There is no
question he had that authority. Finally, in this unhappy chain of events, when Mr.
Casper refused to move from his front row seat, he should have been removed from
the building on the basis that his presence there was a clear and present danger of
violence. (There was no testimony on this issue, but the panel wonders how Mr.
Casper used oxygen at ICS.) Failure to supervise and control Mr. Casper in a
manner that displayed sportsmanship and avoided potential violence is a clear
failure of institutional control.
II. UNSPORTING ABUSE AND TAUNTING OF OPPOSING PLAYERS BY
CERTAIN TABIONA FANS.

High school sporting events have always seen high emotion, yelling, cheering,
and even booing. It is not unknown for fans to pester or try to rattle opposing
players. Such actions differ dramatically from swearing at players, making
references to their family or looks, or continuously hounding them when they have
no choice but to perform within a few feet of the fans.

The evidence presented to the Panel demonstrates that there are Tabiona fans
whose actions at the game in Tabiona, and likely in other locations, constitutes
abuse of these student/athletes and despicable taunting. CK, a seasoned high school
junior who is the subject of comments at every game because he is one of the best
players in his classification heard the taunting. He testified a fan said, from a few
feet away, “[M]ake his bitch ass go cry home to his mommy and daddy.” Shortly
thereafter, CK turned to these fans and told them to “F-off.” He was disqualified.
The fans remained.

CK’s unrefuted testimony was reinforced by a video of the exchanges. Although


the video carried no sound, it displayed a number to Tabiona fans on the front row,
leaning toward and gesticulating at CK. They seemed overwrought. Mr. Ferkin
accurately described the video in these words:

[CK] immediately, after this starts, turns and points to someone who has
been yelling at him. And you will see these fans have been yelling and they're
clearly facing him. Not the game or where the ball is either.

In the Panel’s opinion, the actions of these fans and the consequence of those
actions should have to be obvious to Tabiona and its Administration. This
calculated hazing of an opposing player was clearly intended to draw an emotional
response from an opposing player in a game of consequence. When Tabiona failed to
quell these fans or to impose even limited order on them, it permitted unfair and
unsportsmanlike behavior that could reasonably have altered the outcome of a
game.

Tabiona’s lack of institutional control, in failing to recognize and squelch these


unreasonable taunts and direct abuse of opposition student/athletes was the central
cause of the unsportsmanlike behavior suffered by ICS at Tabiona. It would have
been a simple thing to walk to the sidelines and first warn the fans and then, if the
taunting did not stop, to remove them. It was wrong no so to do.

Although Coach Gines could have intervened, and the Panel recommends that
he do so in the future, the obligation for crowd control is not that of the coach.

III. THE MELEE IN THE HALLWAY

Were this not caught on videotape, oral testimony could not capture the disorder,
and the near brawl that took place in the Tabiona locker room hallway. This
videotape also lacks sound, but from the tape and the other evidence, the Panel
concludes the following:

The behavior of both Coach Gines and Coach Drisdom was unsportsmanlike, and
a violation of Association Rules.

Coach Drisdom also violated Association Rules, as the ICS Athletic Director, by
permitting Duane Koski to enter the area restricted to Players, coaches and other
administrative personnel. The need for that Rule became obvious when Mr. Koski
barged down the hall with the apparent purpose of fighting with Mr. Wagner. Had
Mr. Ferkin not stopped him, in the ensuing fight the locker doors might have
opened, spilling out players and coaches into a wild donnybrook. This is a player
safety rule. Failure to follow this rule demonstrates a lack of institutional control

The episode, along with other evidence demonstrated a recurring problem


sportsmanship and safety problem with Mr. Koski. He had been ejected from prior
games and, in this game, sought to insinuate himself into the locker room because
his son had been disqualified. While in that restricted area he set out to provoke
violence with an opposing team. All of that is unsportsmanlike. ICS must recognize
his behavior and moderate it.

IV. COACH DRISDOM’S INTERACTION WITH A TABIONA PLAYER

Coach Drisdom’s actions in pulling the arm of a Tabiona player and speaking to
him following a game violated Association sportsmanship rules and policies. He
recognizes that fact. Many sections of the Rules found in the Sportsmanship
Handbook require a coach and an athletic director to act in a responsible and
professional manner at all times and to “display respect for the opponent at all
times.”
There was an allegation that in this interaction, Coach Drisdom threatened the
life of a Tabiona player. That player and another teammate testified that they
heard Coach Drisdom tell the player that he would end the player’s life. Coach
Drisdom denied that he had threatened the player’s life and testified that he had
said something that could have been misheard. Coach Drisdom testified he told the
player that “he (the player) was not about that life.”

Without intending offense to the Tabiona players, the Panel does not believe and
does not find that Coach Drisdom made a threatening statement.

PENALTIES

Section 7 A of the Association By-laws provides, in part, “Upon the


determination that there has been a violation of the Association’s Constitution, a
By-Law, a rule or policy, the Association may impose such penalties or fashion such
relief as may be proper.”

The Association, through this Panel, imposes the following penalties:

Tabiona High School and Principal Jenkins.

According to the Association’s Sportsmanship Rules, the school administration is


charged with “the responsibility of establishing good sportsmanship.” That
responsibility extends to supervision of spectators or fans. Principal Jenkins has the
responsibility to insure institutional control, which includes establishing good
sportsmanship among the fans and disciplining coaches and fans who fail to meet
the standards of good sportsmanship.

From the evidence presented, the Panel concludes that there exists among some
portion of the Tabiona fan base overt racism and a willingness to accept not only
that racism but untoward harassment of student/athletes. Those conditions are
antithetical to high school sports and cannot be tolerated at a Member high school.

Tabiona must eliminate racism in any form from all high school activities,
including basketball. It cannot permit any fan to remain in a contest where that fan
has uttered a racial slur or has engaged in foul taunting of opposing players.

The confrontation in the Tabiona hallway was an embarrassment as well as a


violation of the Association’s Sportsmanship Rules. Nothing like it can ever happen
again.
For Tabiona’s violations, the Panel issues the following sanctions and penalties:

1. Tabiona High School and Principal Jenkins are to make a request of Leon
Casper that he absent himself from any Tabiona activity sponsored by the
Association for the period of one year.

2. Following that time, of if he refuses that request, whenever Mr. Casper is at


a basketball game, he is to be accompanied by a member of the Tabiona
administration as a “minder” to assure that Mr. Casper does not make a racial slur
or harass any opposing coach or player.

3. Mr. Casper is to be seated behind the Tabiona bench at least ten rows from
the playing floor. Following each Tabiona basketball game, this “minder” is to
submit to the Association, a report of Mr. Casper’s behavior.

4. Tabiona and Principal Jenkins are to identify the fans in the video who are
taunting CK. They are to inform those fans that their conduct is detrimental to
Tabiona High School and that further taunting or harassment of opposition players
can result in removal or injunctive action. Tabiona is to carefully monitor the
behavior of these fans and, if the behavior violates the Sportsmanship Rules,
Tabiona is to remove them or any one of them from that contest and assign a
minder to that fan for the remainder of the year.

5. These procedures shall be followed for three school years, beginning in 2019-
2020. Should Mr. Casper object to these procedures and refuse to follow Tabiona’s
requests, Tabiona shall file in State Court, together with the Association, a request
for a permanent restraining order against Mr. Casper with the effect of barring him
from school premises.

6. Tabiona High School shall pay to the Association the sum of Six Thousand
Dollars ($6,000.00), which amount represents the maximum fine of $1500.00 per
violation for the following four violations: (1) the lack of institutional control in the
failure to supervise Mr. Casper following his racial outburst at the prior ICS game;
(2) the lack of institutional control in the failure to remove Mr. Casper from the
Tabiona gym following his effort to find Coach Drisdom and call him an “asshole;”
(3) the lack of institutional control in the failure and violation of the Sportsmanship
Rules by permitting Mr. Casper to sit directly in front of Coach Drisdom and the
ICS team; and, (4) the lack of institutional control in the failure to supervise and
remove the rabid fans who were taunting CK. reasonable inasmuch as it had the
power to fine the school for each infraction of each player.
7. Tabiona shall be placed on probation for a period of three years, during which
time it shall be subject to Sportsmanship audits scheduled by the Association for
each sports season, as well as such other discretionary audits as the Association
may deem necessary. The costs of these audits shall be paid by Tabiona. The times
and frequency of these audits shall be at the sole discretion of the Association.
Should any of these audits disclose violations of the Association’s Sportsmanship
rules, the sport in which such violations are disclosed will play all games of the next
season on the road. No home games.

8. Principal Jenkins shall be reprimanded and fined $250.00. Coach Gines shall
be reprimanded and fined $250.00.

9. The Panel directs Tabiona High School to engage with the school and the
community to discuss and remedy the evils of racism. The school’s compliance with
this direction will be part of the Association’s audit.

10. The Panel assesses Tabiona one-half of the cost of the court reporter.

Intermountain Christian School

According to the Association’s Sportsmanship Rules, the school


administration is charged with “the responsibility of establishing good
sportsmanship.” That responsibility extends to supervision of spectators or fans. As
Head of School, Mitch Menning has the responsibility to insure institutional control,
which includes establishing good sportsmanship among the fans and disciplining
coaches and fans who fail to meet the standards of good sportsmanship.

There were two separate events of unsportsmanlike conduct and lack of


institutional control that will be penalized.

The confrontation in the Tabiona hallway was an embarrassment as well as a


violation of the Association’s Sportsmanship Rules. Nothing like it can ever happen
again. For this egregious violation the Panel issues the following penalties: ICS is
placed on probation and fined $1,000.00 for lack of institutional control not only for
the misbehavior but for permitting a parent into the secure area of the locker room
hallway that almost resulted in violence. Coach Drisdom is fined $250 for this
violation.

Because the Panel deems Duane Koski a threat to opposing coaches and players,
it requires ICS to assign a “minder” from the Administration to accompany Mr.
Koski, including sitting with him, at all basketball games and to report immediately
to ICS and the Association any action by Mr. Koski that could possibly be deemed to
be a violation of the Sportsmanship Rules. Should Mr. Koski refuse these
conditions, ICS shall file, together with the Association, a request for a restraining
order to preclude Mr. Koski’s attendance at any ICS basketball game.

The Panel places Coach Drisdom on probation for his inappropriate interaction
with a Tabiona player. No coach should ever grab or push an opposing player. Based
on that impermissible interaction, the Panel suspends Coach Drisdom from the first
two games of the 2019-2020 basketball season. Because he has been fined for a
separate offense, no further fine will be imposed.

The Panel assesses ICS one-half of the cost of the court reporter.

Dated: June 7, 2019

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE PANEL

/s/ Craig Hammer

CHAIR, CRAIG HAMMER

BRUCE BEAN

CHRIS RICHARDS-KHONG,

JOHN GOLDHART,

DAVE MCKEE