Griffith in final sendsbad message

If you believe that everything happens for a reason, this might challenge you.

If you believe that winning isn’t everything, this might confound you.

If you believe that consequences matter more than trophies, this might irritate you.

Griffith High School, whose boys basketball team was suspended by the IHSAA for the remainder of the season following a particularly disturbing on-court brawl, will play Guerin Catholic on Saturday for the Class 3A state championship.

That is just not right.

In an athletics arena where member schools are willing to go to court rather than follow the decision of their association, it is today’s reality.

Court time equals court time as the school’s lawyers convinced a local judge that irreparable harm would befall the team if not allowed to play in the tournament.

You might recall the events leading to the IHSAA decision, which we commended here (Daily Journal, Feb. 24).

Hammond’s Tim Echoles shoved Griffith’s Anthony Murphy head-first into a wall as Murphy was flying in to attempt a dunk. It was an exceptionally rough play that sparked a much bigger flash fire.

As officials rushed to make a call and check on Murphy, both benches emptied and fists flew all over the north end of the court. At least several fans entered the court, as well.

IHSAA game officials called the game, and Griffith police officers cleared the gym.

Commissioner Bobby Cox reacted swiftly and decisively (the NFL should take a lesson), canceling the season for both schools by the next business day. The schools appealed that decision to the IHSAA and lost.

“The totality of this, look at the video,” Cox said at the time. “This was potentially a catastrophic event; someone could’ve been killed. That young man (Murphy) is lucky he didn’t break his neck.”

It didn’t take long for both schools to run to court seeking a reprieve.

That is not a surprise from a legal or political perspective — a Lake County judge found that a Lake County school temporarily should be allowed to play while the issue is more fully litigated.

As a practical matter, though, it put the third-ranked team back in the mix for a state championship.

What is the lesson here? When kids react badly, parents and administrators rush in to delay any consequences.

“I think this sends a very bad message to these kids,’’ Cox told an Indianapolis TV station this week. “We all need to be accountable for our actions. I think this sends the message that if you do something wrong and you’re punished for it, there’s a way to get around it. That’s not going to serve young people well in their adult life.”

Cox is absolutely correct. Isn’t that what high school athletics are supposed to be about? Isn’t the character learned more important than the trophy raised?

Violence on and off the court has become a glaring issue, and the IHSAA is rightly trying to send a message.

The Griffith incident was particularly ugly and evidenced a clear lack of institutional control with players not coached to stay on the bench.

The IHSAA is a voluntary membership organization, and its members have a legal right to proceed to court if they disagree with its decisions.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

I felt bad for Griffith and Hammond teams when this happened. I feel worse now.

The real shame here is not with the incident, but with the conduct of parents and administrators in taking this matter to court rather than abiding by the IHSAA.

Griffith may hoist that Class 3A state championship trophy Saturday. It might also have to give it back after the judicial process runs its course.

No matter the outcome, that hardware — just like the team’s postseason run — will be hollow indeed.

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at