The Flushing and Dewitt Clinton High School football teams will each have to forfeit their upcoming games as punishment for invoking the Public Schools Athletic League's brawl rule during their contest on Oct. 8, according to New York City Department of Education spokeswoman Barbara Morgan.
The two teams also had to double-forfeit the game, which was stopped in the third quarter when players from both benches left the sidelines and came onto the field.
"After our investigation into the incident and a hearing with both coaches, we concluded that no additional penalties beyond the forfeited gamed were warranted," said Eric Goldstein from the New York City Department of Education.
Flushing coach Jim DeSantis and Dewitt Clinton coach Howard Langley met with PSAL officials Thursday, although both coaches said they knew their teams would be suspended for the game before the hearing. Langley said the two coaches met with PSAL officials at different times, and his meeting included PSAL Director Donald Douglas, football commissioner Alan Arbuse, JV football commissioner Jerry Epstein and sports coordinator Tyrone Parker.
Morgan wrote in an e-mail that the PSAL determined the two team's violated the Brawl Rule, which states: "In the event of an altercation, if teacher/coaches lose control of their benches and both benches clear to participate in an altercation -- that game will be declared a double forfeit and both teams will forfeit the next scheduled league games." No further sanctions were imposed, although both teams could have forfeited up to their next two league scheduled games.
Both coaches believe the penalty is too harsh.
"It was still a two-game suspension. We double-forfeit the first game and they took the second one. My initial reaction is that it's terrible and they never looked at the facts, they didn't care to look at the facts, they got statements from the two officials who thought we shouldn't finish, not the two who thought we should continue the initial game," DeSantis said. "It's just sad that our brawl, or lack thereof, and the brawl from the Canarsie vs. Tottenville game from a couple of years ago, which was an all-out brawl, was treated exactly the same."
During the third quarter of the Oct. 8 game, the teams started getting physical during a scrum for a loose football during a football return. There was some pushing and shoving on the field and some reports said a punch was thrown. Both teams ended up leaving their benches and coming onto the field. This caused Epstein to stop the game and rule it a double-forfeit, in violation of the league's brawl rule.
Langley added that in his hearing, the PSAL officials said what happened was technically not a brawl and he suggested they should change the name of the rule to illegal participation or something of that nature. He said his team has not taken the news of the upcoming forfeited game well, and he has suspended eight of his players for the remainder of the season for breaking team rules.
"Kids are confused, disappointed, a variety of feelings that I think carried out, they feel like they are being punished for something that did not happen that way," Langley said. "It is the letter of the law that said they are carrying out the rule."
While both coaches believed the decision to stop the game was an overreaction, both of their teams' road to the PSAL playoffs just became that much harder. Flushing will forfeit its game to 1-4 Midwood this week to drop to 3-3. Dewitt Clinton drops to 1-5 with its forfeit to 5-0 Lincoln. Flushing will return to the field on Oct. 23 at home against Lehman and Dewitt Clinton will host John F. Kennedy.
"We have three games left and have to win at least two out of three, maybe even all three to make the playoffs," DeSantis said. "The team is remorseful for running on the field, and they never intended for this to happen, I assure you that and I also [assure] that will never happen again ... [The players] are business-like in their approach, like always, and they've been business-like again, they know what's before them."