Sportsmanship policy changes game day

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- The institutions of the Southeastern Conference have enacted proposals that will promote and demonstrate the positive aspects of sportsmanship at future SEC sporting events. These proposals were approved at the SEC Athletics Directors Meetings held in Birmingham earlier this month.

"Sportsmanship is one of the most important principles of intercollegiate athletics," said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. "With these proposals, the SEC continues to put the issue of sportsmanship in the forefront for coaches and student-athletes as well as fans who attend sporting events at our venues. We want our coaches and student-athletes to display proper sportsmanship at all times and our fans to feel safe and welcome at all of our events."

The SEC adopted a general sportsmanship statement that will serve as the principle for its institutions to follow. It states, "Coaches and student-athletes of a member institution, as well as individuals employed by or associated with that institution, including alumni, fans, patrons and boosters, shall conduct themselves with honesty and good sportsmanship. Their behavior shall at all times reflect the high standards of honor and dignity that characterize participation in the collegiate setting. For intercollegiate athletics to promote the character development of participants, to enhance the integrity of higher education and to promote civility in society, coaches, student-athletes and all others associated with these athletics programs and events should adhere to such fundamental values as respect, fairness, civility, honesty and responsibility. These values should be manifest not only in athletics participation but also in the broad spectrum of activities affecting the athletics program.

"It is the responsibility of each member institution to establish policies for sportsmanship and ethical conduct in intercollegiate athletics consistent with the educational mission and goals of the institution. Furthermore, member institutions are responsible for educating on a continuing basis all constituencies about these policies."

Each institution will participate in the promotion of proper sportsmanship at its home games, by featuring public address announcements, video spots and game program advertisements. The SEC and its institutions also will place radio, television and print advertisements in its media inventories.

Also, the league has developed a formal policy on items being thrown onto the playing field/court. Each school in the SEC has adopted the "zero-tolerance" policy for such behavior, which will result in the violators being ejected from the stadium.

In the sport of football, visiting teams will not be allowed to come back out onto the stadium turf to celebrate a victory, and the visiting team's band will be allowed to play no more than two songs following the conclusion of the game.

Also, in football, cheerleaders and mascots will be restricted to designated sideline areas between the bench boundary and the end line, as well as behind the respective end zone to the goal post, and behind the photographer zone. At no time, may cheerleaders or mascots enter the playing field (defined as any area beyond the 6-foot limit lines surrounded the playing field) while the game is in progress. Home team cheerleaders and mascots shall not enter any visiting team area. Any type of physical contact between team mascots and cheerleaders is strictly prohibited.

The SEC has a history of addressing the issues of sportsmanship and fan behavior in recent years. Prior to these proposals being passed, the league has adopted policies pertaining to the placement of student sections and bands as related to visiting bench areas, prohibition of articificial noisemakers, elimination of "pass outs" during games, restrictions on "huddles" or "dances" on the field or court, pregame warmup "buffer zone" in football and pregame sportsmanship announcements on video boards and public address systems.

The proposals were brought forth from the Feb. 20 Sportsmanship and Fan Behavior Summit that was held in Dallas, Texas. More than 150 administrators from around the country attended the event which was held to address growing and serious social and sportsmanship issues that have become associated with the competition at Division I colleges and universities.

Some activities common in the past, now forbidden

  • During pre-game warmups, a clear boundary between teams will now be enforced. Expect a 5-yard buffer zone around the 50-yardline.
  • Cheerleaders must now remain in a designated section of the stadium. Visiting cheerleaders will no longer be allowed to run onto the field, carrying team flags to wave in front of the opposing student section or other similar activities.
  • Visiting teams will not be allowed "curtain calls," coming back out onto the field to celebrate with their fans.
  • Visiting bands will be allotted 2-3 post-game songs only, after which they must pack up their gear and leave.
  • Artificial noisemakers of any type are now specifically prohibited in all games involving SEC schools, no longer just in conference games. Mississippi State fans particularly are angry that their Athletics Director voted in favor of a resolution that officially bans cow bells from even non-conference Bulldog games.
  • Visiting squads going to the center of the field to "stomp" on the home team's painted emblem is now specifically prohibited, not just left to the discretion of the officials.
  • Fake fights and wrestling matches between team mascots are finished.
  • Contact between cheerleaders of the opposing schools is prohibited.
  • Cheerleaders or team mascots can no longer run onto the field following scores.
  • The sideline area set aside for the team is now strictly off limits. Home-team cheerleaders are no longer allowed to run back and forth through this area. (NOTE: it will be interesting to see how this is enforced at Vanderbilt, where the sideline area is so small that it's impossible to go from one sideline to the other without either walking through the team area or leaving the field.)
  • Theoretically, home teams will no longer be allowed to use their PA systems to blast partisan noise at the opposing team. Again, this practice is common at several stadiums now, notably at Mississippi State.

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