Neither Cullman nor Walker high schools are banned at this time from playing football this weekend, a spokesman for the Alabama High School Athletics Association said Tuesday.
A brawl between two coaches broke out on Friday night at the end of the Cullman-Walker football game. The fight left Cullman's defensive coordinator Matt Hooper bloodied and Walker's head coach John Holladay with an indefinite suspension.
Tuesday, Jasper City Schools Superintendent Robert Sparkman and Cullman City Schools Superintendent Doreen Griffeth met with AHSAA officials at their headquarters in Montgomery. The group from Cullman included Coach Hooper.
AHSAA executive director Steve Savarese said he expected the AHSAA to make a decision about any sanctions against either team by the end of the week. He released the following statement on Tuesday afternoon:
"The AHSAA is saddened by the incident that occurred during the Cullman vs. Walker varsity football game and disappointed by the actions of those involved.
The AHSAA is always disappointed by any unsportsmanlike incident that involves players or coaches from our member schools. Our coaches are teachers first, and must demonstrate examples of good sportsmanship at all times.
We truly understand the passions that are involved in competitive athletics, but we can never allow those passions to cross the line and become unsportsmanlike in nature.
This is an isolated incident, and is not indicative of the good sportsmanship demonstrated by the more than 10,000 coaches in our state each day.
Once our investigation is complete, we will release our findings to the member schools involved. When that process has been completed, the AHSAA will release a statement. Any subsequent statements or information must then come from the member schools involved."
Earlier Tuesday, AHSAA spokesman Ron Ingram says that everything at this time is "status quo" at the schools, and there is nothing barring the two high schools from playing in their football games later this week.
The AHSAA is continuing to investigate the fight that broke out after Cullman's 13-10 win over Walker. Ingram said the AHSAA is still gathering information about the incident, including video of the fight. Ingram said the AHSAA would send letters to the schools about any decision.
Since 2008, there have been 11,100 high school football games and only 50 coach ejections, according to Ingram. He said he cannot recall there ever being a fight between two coaches.
The play-by-play announcer who witnessed the fight called it the "saddest thing" he's seen in high school sports.
Jimmy Dale has covered Cullman Bearcats games for 20 years, and said he had never seen anything like Friday's fight. Dale said it all started when Walker's coach was taking his players off the field before they shook the Cullman players' hands.
Police broke up the brawl, but Dale said those brief moments won't be forgotten easily.
"It's the saddest thing I've ever seen in high school sports here because everybody is going to forget it was a great game. They aren't going to remember the great game Walker played, the great game Cullman played. It goes down to the final 18 seconds and nobody is going to remember that. Those kids are the ones who really lose in this," Dale said.
At least one high school athletic director has used Friday's brawl as a reminder of what not to do as a coach. Ramsay High School's athletic director JW Benjamin said he spoke with his coaching staff before the school year, and again after Friday's fight, about keeping their decorum and being a good example for the students.
Benjamin happened to be at the AHSAA headquarters in Montgomery on Tuesday for something unrelated to the closed door hearing.
Walker's athletic director confirmed that their head coach John Holladay was placed on indefinite leave pending the investigation.
Cullman school officials said they do not plan to take any disciplinary action against defensive coordinator Matt Hopper.
Jasper police are also investigating the fight.
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