Union High School football coach Matt Labrum suspends team Utah - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

High school football coach in Utah suspends nearly entire team for bad behavior

(CBS News) A high school football coach in Utah is receiving national attention for making an extraordinary decision: he suspended nearly every player on the team.

Union High School football coach Matt Labrum had grown frustrated with reports of his players skipping class, receiving poor grades and allegedly cyber-bullying a fellow student.

Labrum said, "I think the most important thing is that we build character."

After last Friday's game, he sat his players down in the locker room and told them to turn in their jerseys and equipment. The football season would be over until they earned their way back onto the team. Labrum said, "It was very emotional for both sides, the coaches and players."

He handed the players a letter outlining his decision that read, "Gentleman, we are not pleased with how our football brothers are representing our family, school ... and yourselves." 

He also wrote, "It is a privilege to play this wonderful game!" 

Labrum then laid out the criteria each player would need to meet to rejoin the squad: attend all practices, be on time, have no discipline problems. Each would need to complete a community service project and memorize a quote about good character. 

With the support of his coaches, the school administration and even the player's parents, the team spent football practice Monday and Tuesday working on a different set of skills. Labrum said, "We did some service as far as digging weeds and cleaning. On Tuesday we went to the senior center and played some games with them and listened to their stories."

Wednesday's practice was study hall, followed by a team meeting -- with some good news. Labrum recalled, "We went back through all criteria that we've been marking throughout the week and we saw who earned their jerseys back."

Not all of Labrum's players met that criteria, but most did. One player said, "It's a lot of relief for sure, getting my jersey back. I love it."

It was just in time for the homecoming game on Friday. Labrum said, "It's a wonderful thing to see young men take on a challenge. I think a lot of lessons we're learned this week, I think some will be learned later in life I think this is something that we'll all remember." 

The team returns to the football field on Thursday with a lot more to think about than their next game.

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