The American Fork assistant coach who was ejected from American Fork's quarterfinal football game last Friday against Hunter will be allowed to coach during the semifinal game this Friday.
American Fork assistant coach Sam Harward appealed the decision of game officials to eject him from the game right about the time they called the contest with 1:59 left on the clock.
A hearing panel made up of a principal, an official and an athletic director heard accounts from three officials, a Hunter assistant coach, several American Fork officials and from Harward himself on Wednesday afternoon. They also watched several different recordings of the melee, which resulted in the suspension of 10 players three from American Fork and seven from Hunter High.
While the American Fork students will miss the semifinal game, at least, all seven Hunter students were suspended from school for undisclosed lengths of time by their principal, in addition to the UHSAA penalties.
At issue was whether Harward taunted or physically assaulted either the Hunter coach or an official. Two different officials reported seeing a Hunter assistant coach lay on an American Fork player to protect him from Hunter players, some of whom were kicking him.
One official wrote that "the coach was protecting him from his own players. I could hear him say, 'I won't let anything happen to you.'"
This official continued, "I thanked him and asked him to get up, when all of a sudden an American Fork coach ... started screaming get off of our player."
Two officials said Harward was "verbally taunting" the Hunter coach, and that this incited the coach, who then had to be held back from engaging in more contact with Harward. One official said he was "brushed" when Harward pushed the Hunter coach, who was not named, but there was no contact visible in any of the tapes viewed by the panel.
The tapes did show the Hunter coach clearly protecting American Fork tight end Marcus Cramer, who thanked him after he got to his feet, according to bystanders. Harward did not hear Cramer thank the coach and said his only concern was to get his player back to the sideline.
Harward can be seen putting his hand on the Hunter coach's chest as he's pushing the player away, and Harward said he only told the coach to take care of his own players.
"It was never my intention to instigate anything," said Harward. "I just felt I needed to pull Marcus out of a bad situation and get him back to our sideline."
After watching the videos and discussing the incident at length, Harward said, "I had no idea what this coach was doing ... I went in probably assuming the worse."
And as American Fork assistant principal Chad Wilson pointed out, it was a very chaotic scene with officials trying to contain several fights, some of which included fans from the sideline and stands. Normally only a head coach is allowed on the field, but assistants and administrators from both schools rushed the field to try and control the fights.
"You know he's protecting him, but coming in from the sideline, you don't know that," Wilson said. "We believe the Hunter coaches did a good job controlling their kids, especially after watching the tapes. It's other people on the sideline that were a problem."
Game officials decided that night to eject Harward and three players, but then shortly thereafter they opted to just call the game.
Mike Petty, the supervisor of officials, said the panel felt that because there was no physical altercation the situation probably didn't warrant an ejection. Coaches and players can be ejected for taunting, but as officials pointed out, there were a number of verbal fights during the brawl that did not result in ejections.The panel's decision to reverse the ejection means that Harward can coach during American Fork's semifinal game against Layton on Friday.