The New Mexico Activities Association is on the verge of putting the hammer down on unruly behavior at high school sporting events.
It’s coming, for both participants and fans.
At Wednesday morning’s NMAA board of directors meeting, one of the featured discussion items is going to revolve around what is likely to become known as the “2 Strikes” rule, designed to help arrest the increase in reprehensible behavior/language at prep events – an issue that many believe is spiraling out of control.
“The plan is to institute some type of stronger discipline policy than just the ‘Compete With Class’ initiative we have now,” NMAA executive director Sally Marquez said in an interview with the Journal.
The “2 Strikes” rule will essentially read as follows, based on the language the NMAA board members will be presented Wednesday:
“Any time an egregious act of unsportsmanlike conduct by a team participant, including a coach, occurs two or more times during the same season, at the same school, in the same activity, the team will be suspended from participation in that activity for the remainder of the season.”
Item 2 in this proposal is the section that New Mexico prep fans had better get to know, and fast, because the potential consequences could be severe.
“Any time an egregious act of unsportsmanlike conduct by a non-team participant occurs two or more times during the same season, at the same school, in the same activity, the non-team member, along with all school spectators will be suspended from attendance in that activity for the remainder of the season.”
The message from the NMAA is clearly this: poor behavior by one could be penal to the collective.
“We have to send the message that it is not OK to act out, it is not OK to verbally abuse officials, it is not OK to fight, it is not OK to cuss at opponents,” Marquez said. “We need to do better.”
Oklahoma, Louisiana and, most recently, Washington already have added versions of “2 Strikes,” and many states, like New Mexico, are joining the proverbial call to arms.
But New Mexico’s approach will differ from, say, Oklahoma’s, where both fans and participants fall under the same umbrella. Marquez said New Mexico plans to separate the two.
“As a whole, we need to hold each other accountable,” Marquez said. “If we have fans that are acting out, we need to hold them accountable, because it’s going to impact all fans.”
Marquez said hostile fans or fan bases have been more the issue of late than players or coaches being overly aggressive. As such, the NMAA does not want “to hurt kids for what’s going on in the stands,” Marquez said, while adding that school administrations and officials must be active in policing their own fans.
“We’re not consistent from one school to the next,” Marquez said.
The “2 Strikes” initiative is expected to be an action (re: voting) item for the final NMAA board meeting of the school year, which is scheduled for June 1. Marquez said she expects it to be official NMAA policy when the 2023-24 school year begins.
Marquez said Oklahoma so far has had positive results; a message Tuesday to that state’s high school association leader, David Jackson, was not immediately returned.
Marquez said NMAA member schools support a ramping up of penalties as the effort increases to curtail and/or modify behavior that is deemed to have crossed the line.
If a second strike is recorded against a fan base or a team when an individual sports season is at an end, penalties may be applied to the following season.
“New Mexico is different than a lot of states,” Marquez said. “We do not have pro sports or a Power 5 (college). … High school sports is king in New Mexico.”