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Prep football: Union will play after coach suspended entire team

Published September 26, 2013 2:55 pm

Coaches unhappy with players' off-field conduct, including possible case of cyber bullying.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Upset with poor treatment of teachers, dipping grades and a possible case of cyber bullying, the football coaches at Union High School in the Uinta Basin decided to take a drastic step this week.

He suspended the entire team.

Union coach Matt Labrum told his players there would be a team meeting even before Friday night's 40-16 loss to Judge Memorial. In an emotional locker room exchange after the defeat, Labrum made each player turn in his jersey.

If he wanted it back before the next game, he would have to earn it.

"It's not all about winning games," Labrum said. "This is about developing young men to go on and be fathers and be positive community members and be employable."

The discontent among the coaching staff with the players had been growing for some time.

"It's just a combination of things," Labrum said Wednesday. Players were missing classes, disrespecting teachers "and our grades aren't where they need to be."

But the report of a possible cyber bullying incident was the last straw. A student went to the school's administration with claims that he was being harassed online by people he believed were part of the football team. The harassment was anonymous, Labrum said, and while the coach did not believe the problem involved many players, he wanted to take a stand.

"If one member has a problem, then we're all going to help fix it," Labrum said.

So for the first half of this week, football practices in Roosevelt do not involve Xs and Os.

The team met Monday for a "character lesson" at the local junior high school. After that, players spent the afternoon cleaning up around the high school, weeding and picking up trash. Tuesday was spent at senior citizen centers in town, talking with residents and playing games.

"Those are our practices," Labrum said. "Those are our practice times. We're just practicing some different skills."

Wednesday, the team's regular study hall day, will be spent completing school work, but also delivering reports on extra service the players have been required to complete and reciting from memory a quote about character.

After that's done, players will resume regular practices Thursday and Friday morning in advance of a game against Emery High. Players did do conditioning on their own this week, and the coach said he believes his team will be fine to play Friday night.

"Whether we have 11 or more, we'll have enough to have a team," Labrum said.

Emery coach Jim Jones said he was unaware of any potential problems at Union until Wednesday.

"I just barely talked to their AD and head coach," he said. "They are planning on playing both a JV game and a freshman game, as well as the game Friday night. Today's the first conversation I've had. ... Everything is a go as far as I know."

afalk@sltrib.com

Twitter: @aaronfalk —

Football schedule

Al games at 7 p.m.

Thursday

Weber at Northridge

Friday

Alta at Brighton

Am. Fork at Lone Peak

Beaver at San Juan

Box Elder at Roy

Carbon at Morgan

Clearfield at Highland

Cottonwood at Hunter

Desert Hills at Pine View

Diamond Ranch at Altamont

East at Cyprus

Emery at Union

Enterprise at Grand

Fremont at Kearns

Granger at Taylorsville

Hurricane at Dixie

Jordan at Copper Hills

Juab at Cyn. View

Judge at Grantsville

Kanab at Duchesne

Layton Chr. at ALA

Logan at Bonneville

Manti at Delta

Maple Mtn. at Timpview

Milford at W. Wendover, Nev.

Monticello at Rich

Mtn. Crest at Sky View

Mtn. View at Skyline

Newcomb, NM at Mon. Valley

N Sanpete at Richfield

N Sevier at Parowan

N Summit at S Sevier

Ogden at Ben Lomond

Olympus at Orem

Provo at Salem Hills

Riverton at Pleasant Gr.

Sequoia, Calif. at Cedar

Shiprock Northwest, NM at Whitehorse

Snow Cyn. at Payson

S Summit at Gunnison

Spanish Fk. at Lehi

Springville at Wasatch

Stansbury at Bear River

Summit Aca. at Millard

Syracuse at Layton

Timpanogos at Corner Cyn.

Tooele at Juan Diego

Uintah at Park City

Viewmont at Davis

West at Hillcrest

W Jordan at Bingham

Westlake at Herriman

Woods Cross at Bountiful