'Frustrated' LHSAA chief: Landry-Walker, McDonogh 35 not allowed to play until brawl investigation finished; see video _lowres

Adcoate file photo by ROD WALKER -- A melee commenced on the court Tuesday night after the Landry-Walker vs. McDonogh 35 boys basketball game. The fight involved players and spectators.

The McDonogh 35 and Landry-Walker High School boys basketball teams will be able to resume playing basketball Monday.

Both teams had been suspended from all basketball activities after a fight that occurred at the end of Tuesday night’s game at Landry-Walker.

But after reviewing all the information submitted, including a surveillance video filed by Landry-Walker and reports from the two schools and game officials, state high school sports officials said the suspension will be lifted.

“It is the opinion of this office that the incident reports submitted run consistent with the video surveillance evidence,” Louisiana High School Athletic Association Executive Director Eddie Bonine said in a letter sent to the schools Friday.

But the incident won’t go without some punishment. Both schools were fined $500, and a game scheduled between them Jan. 12 at McDonogh 35 has been canceled.

Both schools also must provide a written statement to the LHSAA explaining what actions they will take to prevent spectators from coming onto the floor at future games.

“It is up to school administrators to ensure crowd safety at games,” Bonine said. “The punishment could have been worse, but we feel like it fits. I hope the message is sent that we aren’t going to tolerate this.”

The New Orleans Advocate obtained a copy of the report submitted to the LHSAA by Landry-Walker.

According to the report, the altercation began when a McDonogh 35 player charged toward a Landry-Walker player. It said the Landry-Walker player retreated backward, and referee Talmadge Scott intervened to stop the altercation. Coaches from both teams tried to restrain their players and confine them near their benches, and Landry-Walker players were sent to their team lockers, the report said. However, several spectators became engaged in physical altercations with McDonogh 35 players.

Bonine said video surveillance supported those statements.

“The bottom line is that it’s the schools’ responsibility to host events and to host them safely,” Bonine said. “I would be the first to say that 98 percent of what happened was fans. But as a school administrator, you have to have safeguards in place to prevent something sparking that.”

Both schools have the right to appeal the ruling to the LHSAA Sportsmanship Committee. The next committee meeting is scheduled for Jan. 7, but an appeal appears unlikely.

McDonogh 35 was scheduled to play in the Country Day Tournament that started on Friday, but it had to withdraw from the tournament because of the suspension. The school also disciplined the player who was involved in the incident.

Landry-Walker won’t be appealing, Athletic Director Tarance Davis said.

“He (Bonine) concurred with what we submitted,” Davis said. “Landry-Walker didn’t engage in the fights or participate in any misconduct. Our athletes were confused at first because they felt they were being penalized despite following all the rules. In times of conflict, we tell them to stay back and avoid it, and they did that. They were wondering all week why would we not be allowed to play games when we followed all the rules and all the mandates set by Landry-Walker and the LHSAA.”