Today, the MSHSL board of directors met to review a recommended sanction from the eligibility committee regarding the protest at the state tournament. The league approved a sanction of the 5 head coaches of protesting teams including a 1 (one) year suspension of the head coach, a letter of reprimand for the AD’s of the schools, and a required “Why We Play” training for coaches prior to reinstatement. The full language of the approved sanction is posted below.
letter of sanction
I was present at today’s meeting and can provide some recap of the events and try to help clarify the discussions. I am not a league representative, just an observer. I do not represent the full opinion of the league nor of those who were also present. I’m going to have to paraphrase the comments for you – these are NOT quotes and my interpretation of events only.
The meeting began with a period of open mic for those who wished to speak. There were 15 groups of speakers, including 5 parent/dancers, 5 AD’s or school administrators, MADT vice president, and 4 of the coaches involved. Many supporting staff and friends were there to make a packed boardroom. The comments were professional, and focused primarily on the need for due process for the coaches involved and many votes of support for their coaching, integrity, and previous record. Chaska had some dancers there who were brave and spoke passionately in support of their coach – and they were a real highlight to hear from. The AD’s were perhaps the most direct in their regret for the situation to have come to this, as well as in their desire to support the student athletes. At one point, Wayzata’s AD was visibly shaken and made a compelling plea to recognize his students with their medals. Allison Bridges spoke on behalf of the coaches’ association and asked for fair, equitable treatment per other sports and mentioned how dance team is growing up fast and in the spotlight when other girls sports have had more time to develop slowly. Faribault’s AD was present and while initially not intending to speak, did comment at the end. His comments were thanking the AD’s involved for their cooperation and emphasized while the coaches in question are good people – good people can make mistakes. He also asked that medals be awarded to individuals, but that trophies should not be awarded to the schools in question. Overall, a the comments were full of sound argument, professional demeanor, and obvious caring for each other and the sport. Comments lasted close to an hour before business resumed on the agenda.
After a few non-dance business items, the action portion of the meeting took up the proposed eligibility recommendation. The written proposal was circulated to all, and could have been amended or voted up or down, as long as they brought it to a vote. Discussion was opened for the board, with several comments regarding time to consider action, about the severity of the situation, and clarity regarding the exact meaning of each proposed item. The board first amended the proposal to include medals to be awarded to individuals on 2nd and 3rd place teams, then took up clarity on the suspension aspect. There was no conversation (I heard) about amending the length of the suspension or other details that could have been changed – most of the objecting comments were regarding being fully ready to make a proper decision at all. One board member verbally clarified that “one year” would mean one calendar year – including summer waver coaching, camp, team events, practices, meets, and all activities to do with coaching the team that year. There were many “intricacies” that were not addressed at this time, and I’ll refrain from making assumptions as those schools will need to work that out with the league. The language in the proposal document doesn’t appear to be exhaustive. There were maybe 10-15 quick comments in the board’s discussion, a longer explanation of events from Kevin Merkle, and the vote came up quickly. I did not get an exact count on the vote (as it was verbal), but it appeared there were 2-3 nos, and the rest were in favor of the sanction as written (and amended).
Going ahead, we look forward to movement on our rules change proposals, and starting fresh with a new dance team season. Schools involved in the sanction will have to work out their own details – but I for one am looking forward to rebuilding relationships within dance community, welcoming our new rookies statewide, and making something wonderful for our student athletes in the years to come. I think I’ve seen enough hurt from our dancers involved in this to last me a lifetime. And I don’t think all the tears will be dry just yet, but no one has to feel them alone. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we as a dance community could come together and see things from all sides – and work to help all of our girls heal the wounds. Our dancers in MN are the best in more ways than one – I saw it today, and I’ll see it tomorrow. Its time for a new chapter – a stronger, better, wiser one. Thank you for letting me be a part of that. Next update – rules changes!