Repairing Sportsmanship after the Oregon-Boise State Incident



By Paul M. Banks

You’ve seen it somewhere by now- the ugly incident with University of Oregon and Boise State players, a deplorable scene for kicking off the eagerly awaited college football season. It was all caught on tape and it’s now being re-lived on countless websites through the art of viral video thousands of times.

The Awards and Recognition Association (ARA), founder of the National Sportsmanship Award, expressed concern over this black eye to college football’s image today. The ARA urges the public and the media not to share such negative displays and instead focus on the more common incidents of positive sportsmanship rarely make the news. The incident of negative sportsmanship — physical and verbal — reflects a trend that was identified in the ARA’s Annual State of Sportsmanship survey, fielded by TNS Worldwide earlier this year.

Unfortunately, for the fourth year in a row, the vast majority of Americans believe that sportsmanship is worse now than when they were growing up. More than 85 percent of Americans think sportsmanship is worse now than in previous years.lavelledwardsstadium

“What happened with the Oregon and Boise players was lamentable, but it is not by any means representative of the vast majority of athletes who participate in organized sports,” says former Brigham Young University Head Football Coach LaVell Edwards, who chairs the selection committee for the ARA Sportsmanship Award. “As a coach, I saw up close the character of the players on my teams and those of our opponents. Believe me, the good far outnumbered the bad. There are plenty of positive role models. The ARA Sportsmanship Award gives us an opportunity to shed a bright light on exemplary incidents and athletes.”

Last year, I spoke with both Edwards and Northwestern University’s Eric Peterman, when the former NU wide receiver accepted the ARA‘s 2008 National Sportsmanship Award.

On Saturday, I asked his former Head Coach about leadership, and who’s stepped up to fill that void (after Peterman’s departure) in his program. “Last year as a program, we volunteered 356 times for 80 different organizations. And yeah it was difficult to lose Eric, but he didn’t do all those. In our developmental process, giving back is critical. There are those who are a lot less fortunate than we are, and those who have made choices that have put themselves in those positions, and hopefully we can lift them up, in any way shape or form. Our young men are priviledged to be playing this game at Northwestern University, so hopefully we can take that 356 individual times and 80 different organizations that we went out and gave back, and hopefully double that this year,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitz was also asked his thoughts on Oregon suspending that player and the incident in general. He was very passionate about it and towards the end, displayed a fair amount of serious anger. Not anything close to Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and his infamous “I’M A MAN. I’M 40!!!,” but this is an issue Fitz feels very strongly about, as does the ARA.


Here’s what Fitz had to say:

I believe, based on the initiative that Grant Taft and the American Football Coaches Association set out for this weekend, to have a ceremonial sportsmanship handshake before the game, shows the initiative we’re trying to have as a coaching body. Obviously that young man (at Oregon) made a poor choice, and he’s going to pay dearly. I look at it from what I’ve seen; I think there’s a crowd control problem in college football. There was a lot of emotion in that game. And to have people come on the field I think is dangerous for players and support staff.

I’d like to see that fixed in college football, so that our players can get off the field in a safe manner and the coaches can as well after ball games. There is no need for [the punch] in our game, there was no need for the initiation of the contact either that enacted the swing. We talked as a staff before the game and used that as a teaching moment. That’s how your life can change, your life can change like that (Fitz snapped his fingers) I also heard there were some coaches that decided not to do the ceremonial handshake today, and to me that’s extremely disappointing for our profession.pat_fitzgerald

And if we can’t recruit the right kind of young men to act properly and carry on the great tradition of football that is about acting the right way on and off the field than I question the young men that we’re recruiting, and I question the leadership of our coaching body. We’re entrusted to be the stewards of the game as coaches. I applaud Grant Taft and Chip Kelly for the statement that he’s making, because it’s unacceptable and it does not belong in our game.”

Tips for fostering positive sportsmanship, created by ARA’s panel of collegiate coaches, are available at

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  1. Based on my experiences in little league baseball and then umpiring them eight years after, I’m pretty sure sportsmanship is a hell of a lot better now than is was even 10 years ago. The reason the Blounte punch, Artest craziness, and all that jazz gets higher coverage is because they are more unique now than ever. It’s seriously like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh: The more the majority moves away from poor sportsmanship or their point of views, the crazier they get and the more strange the displays of poor sportsmanship become. Stuff like that will always happen, but it has been pretty limited to the dumb of the dumb.

  2. I agree that’s only the craziness of it that gets headlines. No one covers everyday politeness and decorum. It’s only when Latrell Sprewell chokes someone that this stuff comes up.

    Good call on Limbaugh and Beck, I wish Olbermann, Maddow, Colbert et al stopped covering them and all the batshit crazy stuff they say. Yeah, it’s deplorable, disgusting, and funny. but it’s getting old. We get it- Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh say things like .05% of the population believe, yes it’s racist and awful. But the more attention they get, the more they’ll continue syaing outrageous things that no sane or rational person could believe just so they get more media attention and higher ratings.

    I think it’s best to ignore them.

  3. I also don’t know why the vid shows in the single post, but not on the homepage, weird!

  4. H. Jose Bosch says

    Based on my completely unscientific research, I’d would disagree and say sportsmanship has gotten worse.

    I think part of it stems from all the access we have to professional sports. When pro games on television used to be rare I think people believed that playing professionally was a privilege for a select few. But now that we can see professional athletes just about anywhere and leagues are expanding, I think more parents and kids believe they’ll make it.

    Tensions are higher at just about every level of amateur sports and parents and kids take it waaaaay too seriously. As a result people lose themselves.

    I could be way off, but this behavior doesn’t surprise me. What surprises me is why people still act indignant at the coverage of bad behavior. It sells people. Nine out of 10 people would rather watch two guys argue rather than watch them say hello politely. And that tenth person is probably the guy getting punched.

  5. That probably woudl have been made a good poll question, is sportsmanship getting better or worse?

  6. Paul Schmidt says

    Don’t know who Grant Taft is, but I think that you’re talking about Grant Teaff.

    As for sportsmanship, I really, really believe that had Blount left it at popping Hout in the jaw, he’d have been suspended for a couple of games and that would have been it. Because, by all accounts, Hout got exactly what he deserved.

    And probably, even though he wasn’t, should have been suspended.

    It was the fighting the teammates and trying to charge at the wussy Boise State fans that got him booted.

    And a hearty boo should go to the Boise State scoreboard operator, who continually played the punch over and over again on the replay board, whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Just absolutely classless on their part.

  7. Paul Schmidt says

    Grant Teaff is the head of the American Association of Football Coaches (or whatever it’s called). He was an extremely highly regarded head coach in his day is viewed as the greatest coach Baylor has ever had (I don’t know if the competition is steep or what…).

    He also had one of the best pre-game speeches ever, right up there with “Win one for the Gipper.” It was 30 seasons ago last season when 2-8 Baylor was taking on a ninth-ranked Texas team that was set to absolutely blitz them…Teaff, in his pregame talk, told the joke/story of the two eskimos in Alaska, in the Arctic Circle, fishing, and one eskimo was catching all these fish and the other wasn’t catching anything. The one eskimo asks how the other is doing it, and the other eskimo spits a wad of worms out of his mouth and says, ‘You gotta keep the worms warm.’

    The point was that you have to be willing to do whatever it takes, however long it takes and to whatever extreme it takes to win. And then Teaff said, “I’ll be right there with you gentlemen. I’ll be keeping the worms warm.” And proceeded to eat a 4 inch long earthworm.

    Baylor went out and destroyed Texas that day, 38-14. Teaff legend was born, incidentally, because of Baylor’s starting middle linebacker telling the story to an AP reporter who then called Teaff for comment about it.

    The middle linebacker? None other than Mike Singletary.

  8. I agree with you Schmidt on all coutns. who is grant teaff by the way??

    I put Taft up (I actually don’t know who he is either) because I copied and pasted from the NU press conference transcript

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