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Bucky Dent

Bucky Dent

They played a basketball game Tuesday night in Herrin, where Cairo was beaten 71-48 by the Tigers. Despite a disappointing result, the Pilots lined up when it was over and had no trouble executing a postgame handshake with the Tigers.

This stands in stark contrast to a Nov. 23 game in Alton, where the host Redbirds and Riverview Gardens never got to the handshake part. Heck, they never even got to the third quarter’s end after a huge brawl broke out and spilled into the stands.

Sportsmanship not only took a back seat, it was knocked to the floor like one of the game officials. It is not a stretch to say that multiple criminal acts took place in the brawl, and if you don’t believe me, just look it up on YouTube.

I don’t believe it’s out of bounds to suggest that the Redbirds’ promising season shouldn’t have been allowed to resume Tuesday night, which it was. The final punishment was the forfeiture of three games and the indefinite suspension of five players.

When one looks at this film and then looks at the ruling handed down on Pinckneyville volleyball for a clerical error — the Panthers were banned from the postseason for playing an extra regular season match — then you see that 2 plus 2 doesn’t equal 4.

IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said Wednesday via email that the organization does possess the authority to assess additional penalties to schools if they’re deemed necessary.

“It is typical that we allow the offending school to investigate and take steps to penalize those in violation,” he said. “The action steps are reported to our office to decide if the action is sufficient or if additional penalties may be enforced.”

Here’s one vote for advocating for additional penalties. I get the concept that you can’t blame the non-brawlers for the actions of their teammates, but this is a team sport, right? What’s more, it’s not unfair to suggest that a double standard is in play here.

It makes me think back to the climactic scene from Blue Chips after Neon Bordeaux (a.k.a. Shaquille O’Neal) dunks to lead Western to a big season-opening upset of Indiana and Bob Knight. What was even more amazing about that “game” was seeing Bobby Hurley wearing an Indiana uniform, but that’s another story for another time.

Anyway, coach Pete Bell/Nick Nolte follows up the game with a rant that if it were after a real game, would take its place alongside Mike Gundy, Jim Mora and the late Dennis Green in the Rant Hall of Fame.

While admitting he bought his star players, Bell cuts to the heart of the chase when he tells the media/boosters that this is about “money, absolute stinkin’ money.”

Or words to that effect.

Point being, it’s not out of line to say that financial considerations entered the picture. While Alton might play just seven home games the rest of the season, that’s still revenue from seven home dates which would have been lost had the school — or the IHSA — had pulled the plug on the entire season.

Say what you want about this being amateur sports, and it is. But even bake sales are called sales for a reason. They charge admission to these games for a reason, too, and it’s because schools like to make money, just like everyone else.

I didn’t see Pinckneyville volleyball players throwing right hooks at anyone. I saw plenty of hands being thrown by Alton basketball players. Yet their team gets to continue a season while Pinckneyville never got the chance to see how far its season would have gone.

That optic is a bad one, and you don’t even need to shell out 20 grand to give Ricky Roe a tractor to see why.

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Bucky Dent covers high school sports for The Southern. Contact him at


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