After receiving reports that his players were skipping classes, bullying fellow classmates on the internet and disrespecting their teachers, second year Union High School (UT) head coach Matt Labrum suspended his entire team...all 80 of them.
"We looked at it as a chance to say 'Hey, we need to focus on some other things that are more important than winning a football game." Labrum told the Deseret News.
Here's how it went down. Last Friday, after a loss to Judge Memorial Catholic HS (UT), the coaching staff voiced their concern about the players' actions off the field. They then collected the players' uniforms and handed them a letter explaining that there would be a 7 a.m. meeting on Saturday where they would have an opportunity to re-earn their spot on the team. The letter, titled "Union Football Character", explained exactly what the boys would have to do if they wanted to continue to be a part of the team. Here's a look at that letter.
Union Football Character Gentlemen,
We are not pleased with how our football brothers are representing our family, school, community, alumni, family and yourselves. It is a privilege to play this wonderful game! We must earn the opportunity, to have the honor to put on our high schools jersey each Thursday and Friday night! The lack of character we are showing off the field is outshining what we are achieving on the field. We want student-athletes that are humble to learn and grow through adversity and success on and off the field. We want a team that others want to associate themselves with and support; winning isn't the most important criteria for that to happen.
Humbleness, thankfulness, humility, respect, courage and honor are much more important than winning ballgames! We can achieve both if we start to act with others' feelings in mind and focus on how we can make someone else's day instead of just wrapped up in ourselves. WHEN WE ARE WORKING ON THIS AND ACHIEVING THIS WE WILL BE MOLDING OUR CHARACTER IN A POSITIVE WAY! Right now we are way off as a collective group. We want change and are going to make changes now.
As of tonight we are no longer playing football until we meet certain criteria! TURN YOUR JERSEYS IN NOW!
Saturday: 7:00 a.m. electing captains "Attitude Reflects Leadership" — Remember the Titans.
Monday: 3:30 we will be doing a service project during practice time, come prepared to work, then we are all required to attend the Cougar Legend Banquet. Find ways to serve during this event.
Tuesday: We will be performing more service in lieu of practice.
Wednesday: Study Hall begins at 3:30 and we better have specific items to work on. We will be in there for the duration of practice. You must have enough work for 2 hours.
Criteria to EARN jersey back for Friday's Game:
1) Attend all practices that we have planned and any others that may come up.
2) Be on time and totally prepared
3) No F's or discipline problems
4) Do an individual service project for your family, give me a typed report of it and pictures and have your parents sign it. (Due Wed. before study hall)
5) Memorize and pass this quote off to one of the coaches at some point during study hall.
"Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent. Most talents are, to some extent, a gift. Good character, by contrast is not given to us. We have to build it, piece by piece — by thought, by choice, courage, and determination."
If you meet ALL criteria by Wednesday night, you will have earned the privilege to play in the games on Thursday and Friday. If you fail then you will miss this week's game.
Some have called the move extreme, but the coaching staff felt that the move was necessary in order to send a message of what is most important in life, and get the guys that had been put under his leadership pointed in the right direction.
This was an admirable move by coach Labrum and his staff. Our hat goes off to you and your staff.