Sheldon suspends players for violations in Medford

No. 2-ranked Irish lose five players for span of three weeks

EUGENE — The Sheldon High boys basketball team, ranked No. 2 in the latest Class 6A coaches poll, will play the next three weeks without five of its varsity players after they were suspended for violating the Eugene School District 4J Code of Conduct, the school confirmed Thursday.

School officials did not release the names of the players and declined to comment on the exact nature of the violations. The school also would not confirm if there was any police involvement.

Sheldon athletic director Matt Binkerd did confirm that the violations took place in Medford while the Irish were competing in the Abby's Holiday Classic Dec. 27-29. He said the school was officially notified of the violations Jan. 2, and, after a school investigation, the five players were suspended for three weeks.

Sheldon won the eight-team tournament, 59-50 over Southridge.

Binkerd said the players violated the agreement all school district athletes and their parents must sign. The code of conduct lays out rules with regard to the use or possession of alcohol, non prescribed drugs and tobacco. The document also sets additional standards specifically for Sheldon athletes with regard to behavior.

The Sheldon suspensions follow the code of conduct's guidelines for a first offense.

Principal Robert Bolden said the school takes such violations seriously, adding that Sheldon tries to teach its athletes that participating in sports is more than just being on a team.

"We hold our students to very high standards," Bolden said. "Our student-athletes at Sheldon know that the word 'student' comes before athlete.

"It's about integrity and responsibility."

Student safety supersedes all other concerns, Bolden said, adding that this incident can be used as a teaching moment. Part of learning from a mistake is also understanding that there are consequences that come with certain actions, he said.

According to the code of conduct, in addition to suspension, violators must attend mandatory meetings with the school substance abuse counselor or another "appropriate professional person" and also show a "willingness to follow his/her recommendation for treatment." A first offender is also subject to one year of probation following the three-week suspension.

The Irish are 9-2 and ranked No. 1 by the OSAA RPI rankings. Sheldon is ranked No. 2 in the Class 6A coaches poll and is tied for first place in the District 2 standings at 2-1.

Binkerd said the five players are scheduled to return to competition Jan. 24, when Sheldon plays at Willamette.

The suspended players sat out Tuesday's game against Lincoln, a 71-68 Sheldon victory, and they will miss tonight's game against North Eugene and games against Thurston, Springfield and Marist. The only league contests among the missed games are Lincoln and Thurston.

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