Utah coach lifts ‘character’ suspensions in time for homecoming

The Utah high school football team suspended this week after their coach saw shortcomings in some of the players' character will have enough players Friday night to play in the school's homecoming game.

After learning about a cyber-bullying incident, Matt Labrum, the football coach at Union High School, in Roosevelt, suspended all 41 members of the team. He told them they’d have to earn the right to wear their jersey for the homecoming game.

Whether the suspension was an earnest attempt at character-building or a form of motivation, all but nine players got back their jerseys in time for the game.

The players had to complete a checklist instead of attending practice. These tasks varied from pulling weeds to visiting the elderly. These players also attended classes on character. High school football players are oftentimes required to memorize plays, but this week, Labrum's players had to memorize a poem based on character, KSL.com reported.

"It was mixed," Labrum told KSL.com. "You have mixed emotions because some guys are so elated they have their jerseys back, but maybe the guy next to him wasn’t getting his."

More On This...

    Labrum said most of the players who didn’t get their jerseys back completed about 90 percent of the tasks and can still rejoin the team.

    After last week's loss to Judge Memorial Catholic High School, Labrum gathered the team and told players he was not happy with some of the players' actions. He told them all to turn in their jerseys and equipment, saying they had to earn the privilege to play again.

    They were in the locker room for a really long time,” Jenn Rook, whose son Karter, is on the team, told The Deseret News. “They came out, and there were tears. Those boys were wrecked. My son got in the car really upset and (said), 'First of all, there is no football team. It’s been disbanded.'"

    Labrum was prompted to act after guidance counselors told him about a student who had been bullied on a website and suspected football players were behind it. Although coaches could not tell who was behind the bullying, Labrum told his team "we don’t want that represented in our program."