Fight draws discipline from school systems; deputies’ probe open

Dec. 05, 2013 @ 11:57 PM

Public school systems in Vance and Granville counties have concluded their investigations and issued discipline for a fight following a football game Nov. 8.

Vance County sheriff’s deputies, however, still have an open investigation and are yet to make any arrests four weeks after the altercation.

The varsity football game between Northern Vance and J.F. Webb on Nov. 8 ended with the postgame handshake activities turning into a fight in several areas of the field. Maj. Joseph Ferguson of the Vance County Sheriff’s Office confirmed pepper spray was used on several people to restore order.

A member of the Northern Vance coaching staff, who had been seen on top of a Webb player who was on the ground, was among those seen sprayed.

In an email response to The Dispatch, Vance County Schools superintendent Ronald Gregory wrote, “The investigation is now closed except the issue of the possible involvement of a NVHS community coach. That is open, and we will continue to investigate that issue even if it takes the remainder of the school year, or until I am satisfied that this issue is proven true or false.”

Earlier this week, Ferguson said the sheriff’s office investigation remains open. Players and coaches could still face citations or arrests depending on their involvement.

Ferguson confirmed video and still pictures are being reviewed. Gregory said he had reviewed end of game video footage for almost 10 hours. Gregory said the N.C. High School Athletic Association was also made aware of the school system’s findings on Nov. 22.

In Granville County, superintendent Tim Farley directed questions through Michael Myrick of the county administrative staff who oversees athletics and Stan Winborne, the system public information officer. Winborne said images from above the field and ground level had been reviewed.

Winborne confirmed Webb has issued its disciplinary measures but would not specify.

Gregory said the individuals who caused the disruption were identified and confirmed players have been disciplined. He also did not specify.

In his email, Gregory wrote, “NV players were disciplined, following the VCS Discipline Policies and the NCHSAA policies. VCS has placed the NV football team, including the coaching staff, on probation for the 2014-2015 school year. The entire coaching staff will be required to attend several meetings/trainings focused on sportsmanship, athletic program development, organizing and running effective practices, parent engagement and sensitivity training this year and through the entire 2014-2015 football season. The head coach will attend additional training throughout this year and next year.”

Winborne said he was unaware if a Webb player was on the ground under a Northern coach during the altercation.

“You’d have to speak to Vance County officials about that,” Winborne said. “If it did, I’m assuming it resulted from the verbal altercation that escalated.”

Webb’s entire athletics program had been selected for a sportsmanship award from the Big Eight Conference, based on the fall sports. Winborne said the school declined to accept due to what happened following the football game.

“They felt that it was not appropriate to accept that,” Winborne said.

Winborne said athletics directors from both schools did meet and review information. He said no Granville County coaches were involved, other than trying to restore order.

“We deeply regret that it occurred,” Winborne said. “We don’t consider it characteristic of our student-athletes. The vast majority of the competitions we have are very well done, and we’re proud of our students in general. It’s a shame that this had to occur.”

Gregory issued similar comments.

Both school systems indicated a review of end game policies and procedures were taking place, and some measures are being taken to help prevent another such incident.

Gregory wrote, “We have identified several measures that will be implemented to prevent events like this from happening again in the future, such as security protocols, end-of-game procedures and actual game procedures. I have conveyed to the Northern Vance principal and athletic director what is expected in regards to running a first class athletic program and that the event that transpired on Nov. 8 is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.

“Ultimately, the head coach must set the expectation for player and coaching staff behavior, conduct and sportsmanship on and off the field. We owe the NV students, faculty, parents and community a first-class football program. This is what I expect to occur next year and years thereafter.”

For Webb, Winborne said, “They are implementing new procedures they’re hoping will discourage that kind of unsportsmanlike conduct. It will amount to more intense monitoring and supervision, as well as trying to use this as a teachable moment so they’ll be aware of how to handle these situations.”

The NCHSAA, which completed its winter meeting Thursday, has yet to announce any disciplinary measures. Following the incident, assistant executive director Rick Strunk confirmed the NCHSAA would await reports from the schools as part of its review before it decided if it would issue any disciplinary measures.

The NCHSAA has strict rules against fighting. Players and coaches can be suspended for up to one calendar year, coaches can be fined and team playoff privileges can be revoked.

Contact the writer at awooten@hendersondispatch.com.