Fan banned for one year after incident in Corvallis

2007-03-14T00:00:00Z Fan banned for one year after incident in CorvallisBy KIM BRIGGEMAN of the Missoulian missoulian.com
March 14, 2007 12:00 am  • 

Emotions after a season-ending basketball loss got the better of another fan in western Montana in February.

The Corvallis school board last Thursday voted to bar alum Will Fehr from attending sports activities at the school for the next year after he bumped and yelled at Blue Devils coach Jon Kedrowski at the Southwestern A boys' tournament in Hamilton on Feb. 24.

Fehr pleaded guilty in Hamilton City Court to disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, and wrote a letter of apology to the school and Kedrowski.

"There's no excuse for it. It was the wrong thing to do," the 28-year-old Fehr said this week.

He said he was reacting in anger to Kedrowski's treatment of his brother Geoff, a junior on the Corvallis team.

The incident occurred in the Hamilton Middle School gym as Kedrowski left the floor following the Blue Devils' 66-48 defeat by Stevensville in a loser-out game.

Eight days earlier, at the District 8-B tournament in Libby, Francis Pierre of Arlee punched boys' coach Brandon Hobbs after the Warriors fell 63-60 to Superior in a loser-out game.

Pierre, whose son plays on the team, was charged with two misdemeanors and banned from extracurricular activities in Arlee for life.

They were the only two fan-coach confrontations in Montana that turned physical this season, as far as Mark Beckman knows.

"I don't know if it's more prevalent right now," said Beckman, executive director of the Montana High School Association. "You've got two seasons going on at once now, boys and girls. I also think people are more willing now to report it.

"Before sometimes it was almost like a part of the game. Of course, it's not part of the game. It's something we can't have. It's unacceptable behavior."

Both Hobbs and Kedrowski were first-year head coaches in Montana.

Kedrowski, 27, is a Colorado native who played college basketball at Valparaiso University in Indiana and coached three years at a private high school in Tampa, Fla., before moving to Montana.

He said he was "more or less shocked" when Fehr accosted him.

"To hear somebody yelling at you, verbal obscenities and all this stuff. Š It was a surprise," he said.

Kedrowski enlisted athletic director Phil Leonardi to help him get to the locker room safely after the confrontation. Hamilton police were then notified.

Fehr, a 1996 graduate of Corvallis, played basketball for Kedrowski's predecessor, Dave Bradshaw, who resigned before the season began. Fehr said he turned himself in when he heard police were looking for him.

He lost his cool, he said, when he saw his brother, who hadn't played in the game, report to the scorer's table with 16 seconds remaining, only to have Kedrowski grab him and direct him back to the bench.

Kedrowski said he hadn't told Geoff Fehr to report in, and that the younger Fehr had told him earlier in the season when he was inserted into a game in a similar situation that he would have rather not played.

Kedrowski passed Fehr as both men headed for the exit.

"I saw my brother walking off the court, crying," Fehr said. "Really it was just too convenient to not say something."

Fehr said he stepped in Kedrowski's path and "kind of bumped or nudged him. My hands were in my pocket the whole time. I don't think he saw me. I think I caught him off guard."

Geoff Fehr was one of several players who started early in the season, but saw less time as Kedrowski adjusted his lineup, the coach said.

The Blue Devils suffered through a 2-18 season and went winless in conference play. But Kedrowski said he was happy with their finish, including a narrow loss to Anaconda late in the regular season after losing 91-51 to the Copperheads in January.

"Our kids made really good strides this season. In the back of my mind, I thought, well the season's over, the kids got so much better this year, and they're at a point where they're willing to start working hard for next year," he said.

The postgame incident "puts a cloud over the season," he said.

"What I did was wrong, it really was," Fehr said. "That's why I wasn't too worried about the year's suspension and stuff like that. The thing that's really bothered me the most is the media, to be quite honest. It's been compared to the Arlee thing, and the 10 o'clock news said I attacked the coach.

"I'm like, come on. I don't have a problem dealing with the consequences for what I did, but that's ridiculous."

The one-year ban Fehr received was the maximum allowed by school policy.

"I believe it's the board's responsibility to do everything in its power to protect its employees," said Kip Zsupnik Jr., chairman of the Corvallis school board.

Superintendent Daniel Sybrant said he believed it was the second incident in his nine years at Corvallis where the board banned a fan. The first occurred at a wrestling match a few years ago.

"Generally, it's not something we like to spend the time dealing with," Sybrant said.

Beckman said the MHSA executive board will review both situations - at Arlee and Corvallis - at its meeting in April.

"Both schools have acted quite appropriately, but our board will be reviewing it to see if they'll take any further action."

He said a written MHSA spectator sportsmanship policy in its second year seems to be working.

It has "very specific expectations" of fans, he said, forbidding the singling out of any player and prohibiting obscenities and profanities.

Now that those expectations are "right there in front of them," spectators and game administrators are inclined to report violations.

Beckman said there are roughly 16,000 basketball games - boys and girls, varsity and subvarsity - played each prep basketball season, and the fans' record of sportsmanship is commendable.

"It's good. I think it's very good," he said.

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