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MW athletics on probation

WORTHINGTON — The entire Minnesota West Community and Technical College athletic program has been put on probation following an incident at a recent football game.

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The incident happened Oct. 26 at a state quarterfinal football game between the Minnesota West Bluejays and Central Lakes Raiders in Brainerd. Players from the Bluejays crossed the field to approach the host team following the game, and another incident followed in a parking lot.

“It’s extremely disappointing that some of our guys couldn’t hold their composure and be men,” MW head football coach Jeff Linder said. “We did get it handed to us during the game; they beat us. But that’s not on them — that’s on us for not playing hard. It is a black eye and nobody wants to see that, this type of thing. It’s something you never want to see.”

The Central Lakes program has also been placed on probation by the Minnesota College Athletic Conference (MCAC).

According to the letter sent to Minnesota West, there are multiple sanctions.

- Minnesota West will be required to have a game site manager attend all football games during the 2014 season.

- The college’s athletic programs will be on probation for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. There is no loss of privileges during this period, meaning MW is still eligible for postseason play.

- The teams are expected to reasonably clean the locker rooms they use for away contests.

- Some of the players for Minnesota West will not be allowed to participate in MCAC sports for the remainder of this season and the next and are not eligible for MCAC awards.

The players and the college have an opportunity to appeal the sanctions.

Many of the sanctions are the same for Central Lakes, although no players were specifically mentioned. However, Central Lakes must formulate a game management plan that follows both MCAC and NJCAA language for all of their sports and submit that to an executive committee.

“At this point I have communication into MCAC — I have 10 days to respond, and it’s been five days now,” MW President Richard Shrubb said. “(Monday) I sent an email to the chair of the MCAC saying the only thing we would like to appeal is that all of our athletic programs got put on probation because of what one group of people on one team did.

“It’s really bad punishment, we feel at the college, to be more precise and less inclusive,” Shrubb added. “You don’t just punish everybody a little bit. You find out who did what and act accordingly.”

Following the game —a 55-26 Bluejay loss —the Central Lakes coaches informed MW their team would not be shaking hands.

“It was after the game when we were lined up to shake hands and their team left and mocked us as they left,” Linder said. “The coach came out and said, ‘We’re not going to shake hands today,’which is inappropriate. It’s not an issue, but he needs to let me know before the game is over so we can tell our guys, ‘We’re not going to shake their hands today.’ It probably wouldn’t have been an issue at that point.”

That did not sit well with the Bluejay players, with a handful crossing the field to approach the Raiders’ huddle.

“We had some guys cross the field because they were mocking us and we were barking back,” Linder said. “There were four — or more than that at the time — we had some captains go over there and grab our guys. They were huddled up probably 10 yards away from where we were on their sidelines barking at us. Nothing happened at that point. The captains and the coaches got them calmed down and started moving them toward the bus.”

However, before the team could get on the bus, another altercation started.

“This is the part I didn’t see, but through investigation on our own part, we’ve found out,” Linder said. “I heard some of the racial slurs from where I was at. But nothing happened at that point until a fan chest bumped one of our guys and punched him in the mouth.

“At that point, then it comes a huddled circle,” Linder continued. “It lasted maybe 10 seconds with one of my guys on the ground getting punched. The coaches and the players were making sure our guys were getting pulled back and pushed toward the bus.”

According to reports, the Brainerd Police Department responded to the field after fighting began.

“As a coach, regardless of where you’re from, you try to instill into players your philosophies and beliefs and rights and wrongs and everything else,” Linder said. “You hope they can use that when times get tough to be the kind of player you’re coaching them to be.

“I always look out for the school, I always have, and I always look out for my program, but that’s where I’m probably the most disappointed in those four guys,” Linder added. “They took it upon themselves to put a black eye on our school and our program. Not only that, but the game of football.”

According to Shrubb, an investigation is ongoing.

“We are conducting an investigation right now to see what the truth really is,” Shrubb said. “The long and the short of it is at the Central Lakes College football game, the game was heated between our players and theirs. We’re getting reports that there were some outrageous racial comments coming from the stands to our players that were very, very abusive.”

Because of the incident and sanctions, Shrubb said he wants feedback on the football program.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do with our football program,” Shrubb said. “It would be nice to get some input from the community. We would like a feedback from the community about the potential future of our football program.”

With budget concerns, all programs — both athletic and academic —are under review.

“We’re at a period in the college where we’re really having to examine all of our programs, not just athletic,” Shrubb said. “The athletic programs aren’t off the hook for review because as the college experiences reduced allocation from the state, we have to be more and more and more careful about where we’re putting our money.”

Shrubb said while there have been efficient programs, it doesn’t mean they are off the hook.

“I believe we’ve always been efficient, including our athletic programs, but at some point you have to ask if you’re able to sustain all of the things that you’re doing,” he said. “It’s just like anybody’s family budget where maybe what you’ve done traditionally within your own family, you just can not keep doing. The same thing is true in an institution like ours.”

Linder said he’s going to look at ways to avoid anything happening in the future.

“We work so hard to try to build team unity and build character,” Linder said. “You want to make them better people than when they got there. You do the darndest to do the best you can to mold them into fine young men, whether it be academically or athletically.

“Unfortunately, we had four individuals who decided they were going to put themselves above what’s best for the team, the program, the school and even themselves.”