Columbus HS Relay DQ – Do You Really Know What Happened?

The story of the Columbus High School 4×100 relay that won the regional final but was subsequently disqualified because the anchor leg raised his hand at the end of the race has gained an awful lot of attention in the past week.

Even Governor Rick Perry got involved by sending a letter to the UIL asking them to review the disqualification after hearing the athletes’ father say that his son was gesturing to God.

This gesture was reported widely and the official has been criticized over and over by multitudes of (mostly anonymous) people deriding his decision to disqualify the team based on what has been reported as a religious gesture.

I wonder how many those who feel compelled to weigh in and write harsh and brutal condemnations of the official were actually there? Apparently none of them.

The UIL investigated the incident and released this statement at noon today:

An incident involving the disqualification of the Columbus High School 4X100 meter relay team at the Region IV Conference 3A regional track meet occurred on April 27, 2013. The UIL was made aware of this issue on May 2 after media reports of the disqualification began airing on May 1.  Once becoming aware of the incident, the UIL immediately began investigating the matter thoroughly.

Over the course of the investigation, the UIL interviewed several eyewitnesses and reviewed video of the race. Additionally, the UIL spoke to the involved parties.  The UIL has concluded the investigation and has found no evidence to suggest that the disqualification took place as a result of the student-athlete expressing religious beliefs.  The basis for the disqualification was due to the student-athlete behaving disrespectfully, in the opinion of the local meet referee.

Based on the UIL’s investigation, the student athlete raised his hand and gestured forward at the conclusion of the 4×100-meter relay. The meet official approached the student-athlete in an effort to warn him of a possible disqualification should that behavior continue. In the opinion of the official, the student reacted disrespectfully. Based on his reaction, the student-athlete was subsequently disqualified. Any decision to disqualify a student-athlete at any track meet must be upheld by the head meet referee. The meet official and the meet referee conferred, and the disqualification was upheld on-site. At no point during the discussions surrounding the disqualification at the meet was the issue of religious expression raised by any parties.

The UIL’s investigation also revealed that all coaches involved were notified prior to the regional meet that any gestures in violation of the NFHS track and field rule against unsporting behavior would be grounds for disqualification. Coaches were instructed to discuss this with their student-athletes prior to all races.

To assist the UIL in its investigation, the student-athlete’s parents submitted a letter stating that their son’s religious freedoms were not violated. “In looking back at the conclusion of the 4×100 race, we realize that Derrick could have handled the win in a different manner,” KC and Stacey Hayes said in the letter. “It was not our intention to force the issue that our son’s religious freedom was violated. Nor do we feel that way now. After discussing this with our son, we have come to the conclusion that his religious rights were not violated.”

The student-athlete who was disqualified also submitted a letter during the investigation stating: “Although I am very thankful for all God has given me and blessed me with, on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at the Regional Track Meet in Kingsville, TX, my actions upon winning the 4×100 relay were strictly the thrill of victory. With this being said, I do not feel my religious rights or freedoms were violated.”

The UIL is committed to protecting student-athletes’ and their rights and takes matters such as these seriously. In order to reduce the amount of interpretation on the part of track officials in regards to unsporting behavior, the UIL will work with NFHS for a clearer definition of the unsporting behavior rule.

It’s interesting how venomous are the comments I’ve read from literally hundreds of people who simply believe what they’ve heard without knowing all the facts. This was not an attack on an athlete’s religious beliefs.

It was a disqualification because he made multiple behaviors that could results in a DQ. I’m one of a handful of regional meet referees in Texas and, based on what the UIL reported, I’d make the same decision. Had I seen him gesturing to heaven as was reported, I would not have done anything and I bet most, if not all, referees would not act as that would not be disrespectful or taunting. But if he showed disrespect to an official as the investigation found then the DQ was justified.

This is one more example of people coming to a conclusion despite being ignorant of the facts.

Comments

Columbus HS Relay DQ – Do You Really Know What Happened? — 24 Comments

  1. Phil, you, as a UIL defender/apologist, should be able to reach out and find out exactly what the disprespectful action was; why defend a DQ when even YOU don’t have all the facts? We just end up in a circular argument; enlighten us, don’t keep telling us there was AN infraction, tell us what EXACTLY that DQ involves (please don’t say “he was disrespectful toward an official”, you know what we are looking for). Can you not see how being less than forthcoming leaves the UIL looking like it is just defending its actions with a “because I said so” response?

    As far as a video goes, I saw a news report online when this first popped up on Yahoo, in which a UIL official was quoted as saying that he had reviewed the video, and found that the gesture was not the basis for the DQ. So, if the UIL official has seen a video, one exists; true, possibly the interaction between the athlete and the official may not have been caught, but SHOW US the video. I sure hope pressure wasn’t brought to bear on the young man and/or school to let this blow over (“You know, son, you’re only a junior, it sure would be tough if this kept happening to you NEXT year…”); but absent true transparency, we are forced to speculate; it’s what humans do…

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  3. If you have a moment, I’d be curious why you said it was “quite likely that he did not have a positive motive or attitude when he approached the athlete.” Do you have any knowledge of the facts of the event that indicate that it was “quite likely”?

    Do you really believe that there is no difference between me saying something is possible in response to someone else (not you) being certain about what happened and you saying it was “quite likely” a certain way?

  4. “One of the things that I’ve written about above is that it is very possible that the official might have gone to the athlete with the very positive approach of giving him an off-the-record warning to be careful because other official at the state meet might view his actions differently. I’m not sure that there was ever any ill intent on the part of the official at all. Of course, I’m speculating because I, like pretty much everyone who comments here and on boards across the country, was not there.”

    So, when I speculated that the official likely did not approach the athlete with a positive attitude , you scolded me for not knowing the facts. I find it humorous that you then turn around and do the same thing, speculating a positive attitude. The official was the primary contributor to the DQ, since he approached the athlete to warn him about the implications of an act that you have clearly stated was not against the rules. Case closed.

  5. Thanks a lot for your very insightful, well-thought comments, Mario.

    One of the things that I’ve written about above is that it is very possible that the official might have gone to the athlete with the very positive approach of giving him an off-the-record warning to be careful because other official at the state meet might view his actions differently. I’m not sure that there was ever any ill intent on the part of the official at all. Of course, I’m speculating because I, like pretty much everyone who comments here and on boards across the country, was not there.

    I do agree about the use of technology. I had to DQ a number of teams and individuals based on lane violations at the regional meet where I officiated. This is common every year and sometimes there are occasions when I do not because only one official saw an infraction. A couple of times I thought I saw lane violations, but wasn’t sure myself so I didn’t act. Video, if clear, would definitely be a help.

    Would it bog down the meet, though? You can’t imagine. Every coach who had a DQ would protest and demand a review of the video. Every coach who though someone else should be DQ’d would demand a review of the video. And that’s just for running events where even a single video probably wouldn’t adequately cover a race.

    Video of judgement calls would not have helped — such as at what really was the athlete’s gesture.

    To me, the easiest way to avoid a negative decision on a judgement call is not to get in that situation in the first place. Of course, excessive celebration, as was incorrectly brought up by the original KHOU report, is not even against the rules and would NOT result in a DQ.

  6. Jeff, I ‘m sure we’ll ever hear any official description of what happened though I’m certain stories will spread over the internet soon. Since the UIL, the athlete, and the athlete’s family all accept what happened, I feel confident that it was not a subjective decision and was siginificant enough to deserve the DQ.

  7. I’m not sure why you made this a personal attack on me, but that’s the way the internet works these day. You can continue to go after me personally while I talk about the facts and the things that you actually write, not about you personally.

  8. Phil,

    First off let me begin that what you do for Texas Track is really appreciated and respected. I don’t agree with you on this particular topic, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve lost any respect for you as a track official or fan. I’ve been coaching track for 7 years at the high school level and have researched the sport, attended clinics, spoke to coaches at the university level and done as much as I can for my kiddos to prepare them to be successful in the sport and yet, I don’t know all of the rules. On a personal level, I’d rather spend my time attending a clinic or watching videos on relay handoffs, spacing, acceleration techniques, etc to make sure our 4×1 performance the best possible when it is time to perform as opposed to knowing every single rule, right or wrong that is a personal choice of time commitment. We always remind all our athletes about behavior, language, wardrobe through the season and at course at meets. At big championship meets athletes get excited about winning and celebrations often occur and personally I try not to squash genuine reaction and sincere gratitude for winning. Some meet officials are more lenient than others on applying the rules and will let celebrations such as pointing forward or toward the sky or pumping your fist or thumping your chest go. Of course other meet officials apply the rules more authoritatively. The athlete in this judgment was apparently DQ’d for his reaction to being approached after his celebration. Nobody knows exactly what was said, why the official approached in the first place, and what disrespectful action was taken by the athlete after being approached. The rules on the relay are simple, you can get DQ’d after the relay and the entire team will be DQ’d. That is understood. What is not is what is deemed excessive and the UIL needs to do a better job of defining the parameters and give examples to coaches, athletes, parents and of course officials. The idea that video is not allowed to make decisions is old school. Its 2013, if we use big expensive equipment to time the athletes to the hundredths of the second, I’m sure at these big meets we can use video to determine if rules were broken. Finally, and again this is a personal opinion, we have to allow kids to have fun, enjoy the process and be excited about their performances. In life, we celebrate all the time in victory; graduation, new job, raises, marriage, children, etc. Athletes prepare for this opportunity for months and sometimes years. Yet, it takes the subjective view of one meet official to undermine years, months and hours of hard work, dedication, sweat, weight lifting, amazing amounts of preparation to say, “that was too much celebrating”, that’s not acceptable. Absolutely, we need to teach kids respect, values and morals through the sport, but lets also understand and respect sacrifice and the need to celebrate in a moment of genuine happiness.

  9. Okay, I’ll try to make my thoughts clearer.

    You wrote: “If the official had not had a problem with the gesture, then he never would have approached the student athlete (bringing with him what kind of attitude we do not know) in response to which the student-athlete behaved disrepectfully.”

    Quite simply there is NOTHING in the UIL’s statement that said the official had a problem with the gesture. Nothing.

    It states that “the meet official approached the student-athlete in an effort to warn him of a possible disqualification should that behavior continue.” It does not mention where, when, or by whom such a disqualification would occur. I would not have had a problem with a religious gesture (which never even occurred, by the way according to the athlete), but I would have let the athlete know that officials at the state might see it differently.

    Does it occur to you that the official was actually trying to take a positive approach to help the athlete avoid a problem in the future? By rule, the official has no business approaching the athlete if there is grounds for a disqualification. That should be reported to the referee for him/her to determine the facts and make a decision. Seems to me that an official seeking to DQ an athlete would not go to the athlete before reporting the infraction.

    As to these “multiple” reports, after more than hour of searching I was only able to find two. One was KHOU and the other was KHAN. These stations are obvious related because both sets of anchors used the exact same script to introduce the same report. I could not find a report anywhere that talked with anyone actually involved in the incident.

    I notice that you haven’t responded to that part of my comments — why do so many fail to question that the report was made completely on heresay without any attempt to talk to those involved or even those who were there. How would you feel all the “multiple” news outlets reported something that you did incorrectly without talking to you or anyone else?

  10. Because someone at some point brought in religion. That’s one reason why people are worked up.

    Personally, I think the rule is stupid even in the case of your explanation of what happened where the referee deemed the team disqualified because of alleged disrespect. I think a big reason why people are upset is that the team was dq’d based not on track actions but one person’s definition of disrespect. If that was the case, it’s possible a team could be punished unfairly based on the definition of disrespect and it has nothing to do with performance. They ran the fastest time but won’t be at the state meet. They didn’t cheat and no one was physically hurt. Something doesn’t smell right.

    I don’t know the rules, but is there a definition in the rule book of disrespect? Additionally, we aren’t hearing what that alleged disrespect was which makes it suspect. If it’s defendable, why don’t we get that side of the story. After seeing an umpire goad the Washington National’s Bryce Harper and then ejecting him in a baseball game for a reaction, forgive me if I don’t just take the word of the officials.

    I believe in sportsmanship, but I’d like all the facts before letting both sides off the scrutiny hook.

  11. You wrote:

    “I can think of one reason why the official would have approached the athlete that has nothing to do having “a problem with the gesture” as you put it so I know your certain interpretation is not a fact.”

    Your OWN link says:

    ” . . . the student athlete raised his hand and gestured forward at the conclusion of the 4×100-meter relay. The meet official approached the student-athlete in an effort to warn him of a possible disqualification should that behavior continue.”

    So now it is MY “certain interpretation???”

    I have lost a lot of faith in your account of this episode as it is starting to seem like you have an agenda here.

    You might want to step back and take a look in the mirror. You are pointing your finger at a lot of folks here because we reacted to MULTIPLE media reports which all said the same thing – just like you do every day (and you know that you do because you cannot personally investigate everything you read and see).

    Just remember: when you point your finger at folks, there are four pointing back at you.

  12. Where are you guys getting your “facts”? Did it happen the way you think just because you want to believe it? Were you there? I guess I just don’t understand how so many people know what happened or think they know what happened including events that have not been described anywhere when they haven’t heard from a single person was actually was involved except the athlete who, by the way, says something different.

    I just don’t get where all this is coming from.

  13. Was the boy preaching or taunting some? I think not. Did he raise his hand toward the sky. I think so. So why did the offical approach the boy about what he was doing in the first place? No good reason has been shown. It looks like the offical didn’t like the type of celebration. I guess he never won first place to qulify for state and how that feels after years of work. “Thanking God for His help” looks like what triggered the offical to start with. Is that really excessive celebration? I think not. Let them run.

  14. The type of person who would make a mountain out of a molehill, and would quench the spirit of joy because it doesn’t fit a dry rule bleeds life out of it all. This whole thing is stupid. The approach when there was no infraction, the possibility of blah, blah, the contempt of celebration, the disrespect by a kid who should have handled it like a 40 year mature adult, the further defining of what constitutes excessive celebration…
    Sure everyone is real proud of themselves.

  15. So as long as one hears it on the news, it’s okay to vilify an official? Everyone seems to know what happened or what was going through the official’s mind or what his intent was when in fact they do not. Period. People bring their own interpretation into things without even considering if they absolutely nothing to back it up.

    I can think of one reason why the official would have approached the athlete that has nothing to do having “a problem with the gesture” as you put it so I know your certain interpretation is not a fact.

    I rely on the news just like everyone else, but I don’t take everything as Gospel and try to be critical in what I am hearing.

    How in the world could someone make that report without talking to the official and/or the referee? Didn’t any viewers/readers think to question something as obvious as that? Probably not because critical thinking doesn’t seem to be a factor in most of the nasty comments I’ve seen. Seems to be the American way nowadays to make quick judgements about others when we are ignorant of the facts.

    Again, how can hundreds and probably thousands of people get so worked up over a what they believe is a “denial of religious freedom” story from sources that did a VERY poor job of investigating the story.

    KHOU reported that the religious gesture is why he was disqualified. In fact, there is NO rule that prohibits that. They said his gesture was ruled an excessive celebration which also is not true. They did not check with the rule book or even another official — much less the officials involved. Sadly, apparently a lot of other media sources took their story and ran with it while ignoring obvious questions. I’ve been looking for quite awhile without any luck to find other original reports. I’ll bet all those links you talk about came straight from KHOU’s report with absolutely no additional investigation on their own.

    By the way, even the school superintendent commented on the gesture. “That’s what really drew all the attention to the situation but we knew all along as the district that there was more to the story then that one incident,” he said.

    Guess no one bothered to talk to him, either.

  16. Hi.

    Thanks for your explanation. I would like to see a video of the gesture. LIke everyone else, I can only base my opinion on what has been reported. I can show you ten web links to TV stations and legitimate news websites all claiming that the team was DQ’d because the kid pointed to heaven. Maybe you should consider that your problem is with the media, and not folks who react to media reports that we should be able to rely upon (???) and which all of us (you included) do rely upon every day.

    The other problem that I have is that you seem to dismiss the finish gesture as “not the cause of the disqualification.” Not the DIRECT cause, But certainly “A” cause. If the official had not had a problem with the gesture, then he never would have approached the student athlete (bringing with him what kind of attitude we do not know) in response to which the student-athlete behaved disrepectfully. Still want to see the gesture that triggered it all.

  17. What video are you referring to? I’m sure there was no official video as it would be irrelevant so what would be the point? By rule (3-3-7), video “shall not be used to makes decisions related to the meet.”

    I’d like to see a video of the finish, too. I’ve looked twice today with no luck. I’m sure there’s one out there. There must have been parents/friends/others who filmed the race, but whether it’s published on YouTube or somewhere else is strictly the decision of the person who shot it.

    Of course, what happened at the finish is also irrelevant. According to the UIL’s statement, the finish gesture was not the cause of the disqualification.

    And I can’t imagine that anyone filmed the interchange between the official and the athlete, though it’s possible.

  18. Why, when a video exists, is it not released for public viewing? Why allow the entire situation to be misconstrued if there is firm evidence of an infraction? Since it has NOT been made generally available, I am forced to conclude that the video shows an DQ that will not hold up to public scrutiny. The above article does not say that the runner was behaving disrespectfully TO the official, it says the student reacted disrespectfully. What was the disprespectful behavior? Why is there any foot-dragging by the UIL when this could be so easily cleared up? It almost seems like a bad judgement call was made, and then backed up by the head meet official. I would like to hear more about the background and affiliations of these officials, too. Hope this wasn’t some kind of good-ol boy kind of thing…

  19. On what are you basing your judgements about the official and referee there? How do you know he was thin-skinned? On what facts to you base your comment that “it is quite likely that he did not have a positive motive or attitude when he approached the athlete.” And what are the “real facts” that you refer to? Perhaps you were there or know the officials in question. I wasn’t there because I was working another regional meet where I had the unpleasant task of notifying several individuals and teams about disqualifications. Interestingly, there was not a single official protest of any of my decisions.

    I base my thoughts on the reported facts from the UIL and the rule book (Rule 4-6-1). If your respect for me as an official has gone down because of facts, then I deserve it. But if it’s based on your lack of knowledge of the facts and the rules then it really doesn’t make much difference.

    Would you cite somewhere in the rule book a different reading or interpretation to support your comments, please? I’m not the greatest official in the world and I am ALWAYS open to learning new things and being a better official. I take my role very, very seriously because I know how much my decisions matter to the athletes as well as the coaches.

  20. Thin-skinned officials have no place in sports. This guy could never be a baseball umpire at any level. And, it is quite likely that he did not have a positive motive or attitude when he approached the athlete. And, the athlete could have easily be DQ’ed from competing at the next level rather than the team being prevented from advancing. You do not seem to think that the punishment in this case was out of line based on the real facts, so my respect for you as a regional meet referee has decreased significantly, despite all of the good work you have done in promoting Texas track.

  21. I’m not sure how you can say it’s left open for people to draw their own conclusions. He broke the rules. In reading your comments, it’s very clear that you are not familiar with the rules of the sport. The referee, according to the facts brought out by the UIL’s investigation, did exactly what he/she was supposed to do. Being a post-race infraction had nothing to do with it. Being an individual on a relay had nothing to do with it. Being a celebration had nothing to do with it.

    He broke the rules by being disrespectful to the official and the referee took action. There was not even a disqualification — and probably would not have been — until he was disrespectful to the official. The athlete, and especially his coach, are responsible for knowing the rule. I believe the same concept applies in every high school — at least all the ones that I’ve been around which is most. Disrespect towards an official is grounds for DQ as per Rule 4-6-1.

  22. Just like your blog and other articles, there is no pictures or video of the event in question. So you leave it open for people to draw their own conclusion. The media made it a religious freedom issue. As usual the media is quick to make a story without having all the facts or the references to support their story line. Just to be the first one to get the false story out. The UIL should investigate all disqualification of this sort, before a referee is allow to disqualify a team or person, and not wait till it is a media issue. This is not like a false start, zone infraction or a running out of lane violation. This a judgement call basis on the individual referee at the meet. Also why are they punishing the team instead of the individual. This alleged violation happened post-race not during the race. Why are they being punished. I have been to many UIL regional and state meets where there has been celebration. Too some of these kids this will be the biggest meet they will ever run in, as we now a lot of them will not make it to the college level. So how can we expect for them not to be excited for their achievements. The rule needs to be looked at and changed or adjusted to be no taunting or group celebrations. The crowds at the regional and state meets are louder and more intense and the athlete feeds off of this, of course they will get excited at times. Its OK for them to show disgust or frustration when they lose, but not be happy and excited to win. As coaches and athletic directors you pump up your kids, give pep talks in the locker room and on the field to get them ready to compete. But it is foul to be happy that you accomplished your goal you set out to accomplish.