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OVC Sportsmanship Statement

General: The Ohio Valley Conference is committed to establishing sportsmanship and developing healthy environments for competition. This Conference wants to lead the way in abolishing the notion that it is desirable to create a "hostile" environment for intercollegiate athletic contests. Instead, we will strive to create "hospitable" environments. We believe that part of the role of education through sports is to teach our youth and our communities to conduct themselves with sportsmanship and respect for opponents.

In an effort to achieve this goal, the Conference has developed this statement which outlines the expectations of the various groups and individuals associated with our intercollegiate athletics programs.

Administrators: It is incumbent upon institutional administrators to create an environment of hospitality for visiting teams, particularly for those individuals at Conference institutions. OVC administrators must develop the attitude that the treatment of a visiting team and its fans will be in the same manner that they would want their teams to be treated.

The athletics director at the host institution must ensure that he or she, or someone else designated as game manager, approaches the coach of the opposing team at a spectator event in order to welcome that coach to the institution, provide an opportunity for the coach to address any concerns, indicate the location of the game manager in the arena or stadium and identify security personnel present for the contest. The athletics director should educate security personnel to ensure that the visiting team is protected from abuse from the home crowd and that security is in very close proximity to the visiting team's bench. Each institution must arrange its seating at spectator events so as to emphasize sportsmanship and minimize the harassment of the visiting team and its fans.

The athletics director must ensure that those who are employed by the university treat the opponents with fairness and respect. For example, public address announcers must be required to announce the contest in an even-handed manner with equal excitement for both teams. The institution's chief executive officer and athletics director should review periodically with other athletics department staff members, coaches, student-athletes and spirit groups (cheerleaders and bands) precisely what is acceptable conduct, as set forth in this document.

Coaches: Coaches have the greatest amount of influence over whether the young people in their programs are taught and follow the high principles of sportsmanship. The OVC has been benefited by coaches who have risked losing a contest by removing student-athletes who have demonstrated disrespect for their opponents. This discipline measure educates that individual and his or her teammates about the importance of sportsmanship over participation and winning. This type of attitude and courage must be adopted by all OVC coaches. Administrators and coaches must pay special attention to their student-athletes' behavior and continually emphasize the need for sportsmanship and respect. Such education is needed to counteract the constant messages received by our young people from many professional athletes and others who demonstrate a lack of respect for opponents. This Conference and its coaches are committed to teach messages that are appropriate about sportsmanship.

Coaches also have the ability to influence the behavior of their fans. OVC coaches must take every opportunity when addressing the media, booster groups or other public forums to express the desire for fans to support their team at home contests, but not to abuse the visiting team. Coaches and administrators should stress that the participants in our athletics contests are young people who do not deserve to be mistreated by a hostile crowd.

Student-Athletes: Respect for the game in which the student-athlete participates also demands respect for the opponent. Student-athletes at Ohio Valley Conference institutions are expected to treat opponents with sportsmanship. There can be no tolerance for taunting and baiting of opponents.

OVC student-athletes must understand that they are perhaps the most visible representatives of their institutions. Also, their behavior is observed and emulated by many who are younger. OVC student-athletes must honor the responsibilities that accompany the privilege of representing our schools by behaving with dignity and class on and off the field.

Spirit Groups: Like our student-athletes, these groups are visible representatives of our universities. As such, we place high expectations on them for decent behavior. Cheerleaders, bands and other spirit groups are admitted to contests at the pleasure of our institutions to support their teams and assist in creating a fun atmosphere. They are not admitted in order to disrupt or confront the opponent and such behavior will not be tolerated. Their focus must be toward encouragement of their team and respect for the opposing team.

Officials: Officials who are assigned Conference contests must enforce the rules regarding sportsmanship, without tolerance for abuse. The only warning to participants and coaches regarding sportsmanship should come at the beginning of the contest. Once the contest begins, penalties (consequences), not warnings, must be assessed for violations of unsportsmanlike conduct. Similar to the baseball policy of ejecting coaches for arguing balls and strikes, the Conference will require that officials eject any coach who protests unsportsmanlike conduct calls, provided such ejection is permissible by the rules of that sport.

Each official assigned by the OVC will be provided a card with the following statement which must be read to the captains and coaches of every contest prior to the beginning of the game:

"The Ohio Valley Conference requires officials to enforce all rules regarding unsportsmanlike conduct by coaches and players. There will not be any tolerance for negative statements or actions between opposing players, especially taunting and baiting. If such comments are heard, a penalty will be assessed immediately. If any coach protests an unsportsmanlike penalty, he or she will be ejected from the contest. We have been instructed not to issue warnings during the contests. It is strongly suggested that you remind your participants of this policy." Officials who do not follow this policy will be subject to suspension.

Commissioner: The commissioner is expected to enforce the unsportsmanlike conduct rules of the game and the Conference. He or she is authorized to assess penalties for improper behavior that is not detected or properly addressed during the contest. Institutions and their personnel are expected to fully cooperate with his or her effort to investigate possible improper behavior.

In the unfortunate event that an altercation occurs during a contest, all individuals who are on the bench are expected to remain there. It is incumbent upon the head coach to ensure that this occurs. The commissioner is directed to suspend automatically the head coach of a team whose bench personnel enter the field or court of play during an altercation, regardless of whether those individuals become involved in the altercation.

Fans: The Conference hopes and believes that the establishment of the principles outlined in this document will create a wholesome atmosphere that will attract more fans to our events. The fans attending our games must be reminded by the public address announcer of the expectation of sportsmanship and respect for opponents.
We expect that all fans will act in an appropriate manner, and respect the opposition and the officials. We understand that occasionally there are individuals who attend games and abuse the opposition and officials. Those individuals may be dismissed from athletics events.

Concluding Statement: The Conference believes that the effort to meet the expectations outlined in this document will increase the attractiveness at our athletics events by creating a healthy environment for our competition.