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NMAA has been given OK to punish ill-mannered behavior

It’s official: The New Mexico Activities Association and executive director Sally Marquez will have the latitude to punish member schools directly should the association feel developments warrant such action.

By a 59-12 vote, schools voted to confirm a referenda item that went out following last month’s board of directors meeting.

With this now confirmed, schools — not only their athletes and coaches, but most especially their fan bases — have been put on notice by the NMAA.

Boorish behavior will have consequences.

“I think the whole state understands that we have a sportsmanship issue,” Marquez said.

Here is part of the new language of bylaw 7.7.4: “A school is responsible for the conduct of its team, coaches, students, and fans at any interscholastic event. … The Executive Director may invoke penalties upon a member school for actions which violate the principles of ‘Compete With Class.’ ”

Exactly what that entails is not entirely clear yet, and Marquez said she would address such instances on a case-to-case basis.

The most egregious example of outlandish fan behavior to be found during the last school year — inside a venue — occurred at the state wrestling tournament. Two mothers, one from Belen and one from St. Pius, nearly caused a full-fledged brawl in the stands at the Santa Ana Star Center, even as their sons were wrestling 30 feet in front of them.

Among the 12 who voted against this referendum were Rio Rancho and Atrisco Heritage.

“We feel like we can take care of things in-house,” Atrisco Heritage athletic director and boys basketball coach Adrian Ortega said. “We have protocols in place to prevent those type of events.”

Multiple efforts to reach Rio Rancho AD Vince Metzgar for comment were unsuccessful.

Marquez has said frequently that she has been frustrated with some escalating bad behavior at New Mexico’s high school events, particularly from fans.

Now, an individual fan’s behavior, or the behavior of multiple individuals, is, in a sense, married to the team they’re cheering for. Or, more to the point, the team they’re jeering.

But it may take something rather extreme, or public, as with state wrestling, for the NMAA to insert itself into the equation.

“First and foremost,” Marquez said, “I’ll continue to work with ADs and the school and see if we can come up with a solution. If we can’t, I believe that’s when this rule will be put into place.”

Marquez said the NMAA would do everything it can to inform coaches and athletic directors about this new bylaw before the 2018-19 sports season begins in a few weeks.

All three of the items the NMAA sent to schools last month passed easily.

n By a 59-11 margin, schools voted to affirm an update in the verbiage in the “Undue Influence of a Student” bylaws. The NMAA believes too many coaches are using intermediaries — like parents and club coaches — to recruit athletes, either one athlete or en masse as with a club program, to a school or a particular program. While there are many who believe this updated language won’t change things, the NMAA hopes to upend what it believes is an ugly status quo.

“With the club rules and the influence parents have on where other athletes are going, we do not have a level playing field,” Marquez said. “I’m very confident this will help assure there will be a level playing field.”

n Schools will have to complete their entire district schedule to qualify for the postseason. This passed 66-5. The old rule was that schools only had to compete once against each district member to quality for the playoffs.

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