Unsportsmanlike conduct mars US College Final – again
By TERRY PRITCHARD – Squash Mad Correspondent
UPDATE: Statement from the College Squash Association following complaints about the behaviour of Max Martin of Yale and Aria Fazelimanesh of Rochester in the Potter Cup team final. The statement reads:
The Men’s College Squash Association Executive Committee has withdrawn both players involved in the unsportsmanlike incident during the national team championship final from the CSA individual championships, scheduled for this weekend at Chelsea Piers (Stamford, CT). There will be discussion to see if further disciplinary measures need to be taken.
The CSA wants to make clear that while there is an understanding of the emotions and competitive behavior involved in playing for a national title, especially in a team context, sporting and ethical conduct is required of all players at all times. The behavior of the two players failed to live up to the rules and the values of the CSA.
These types of incidents are not typical of CSA matches, though the fact they exist will provide an impetus to see if we can take appropriate action to eliminate this type of behavior completely from the college game.
Mere days after Mathieu Castagnet’s brilliant dive-winner combination put squash in international sports headlines, an ugly incident at the finals of US college “A” division championships has put squash back in the headlines in a much less positive way.
The Potter Cup is an annual championship for the top eight men’s teams in US college squash. This year’s Potter Cup final was remarkable in that the University of Rochester Yellowjackets had upset the Trinity College Bantams in a tight semi-final, marking the first time in 19 years that Trinity had not made the finals.
The Yellowjackets faced the number two ranked Yale Bulldogs for the final on Sunday, in front of a packed house of boisterous Yale and Rochester fans. One of the opening matches, at the number six position, was between Max Martin of Yale and Aria Fazelimanesh of Rochester.
By all accounts, this match was ugly. One fan who attended described the match this way:
“It was a dirty dirty match and it showed the worst of squash. Both players were fishing for lets and were putting the ref in a tough position every point…The Rochester player…at one point made an obnoxious bow before serving after winning a such a point. The Yale player would shout and fist-pump after each point…overall a very competitive and messy game.”
Another fan who attended the match said, “After every point the Yale player was chanting and jeering directly at the other player. This was uncalled for even after some of the other ego-boosting behavior by the Rochester player. He was also doing a ‘USA’ chant after winning points aimed directly at his opponent” (Fazelimanesh is from Iran).
This ugliness culminated with a refused handshake, an obscene gesture, and an on-court confrontation that was captured on video. This video was picked up by US sports media giant ESPN, and quickly circulated on social media.
Evidently there was ugliness in other matches, too, although not as extreme. Yet in spite of this, referees at the final only assessed a single conduct stroke on the day.
Asked to comment, College Squash Association president Martin Heath confirmed that the CSA was looking into the Martin/Fazelimanesh match in particular, and was considering disciplinary measures.
This isn’t the first time a Potter Cup final has seen unsportsmanlike conduct. In 2010, Trinity’s Baset Chaudhry and Yale’s Kenneth Chan were involved in a similar confrontation that attracted national media attention.
“Incidents like this are not common”, said Heath. “Making the team result dependent on behavior and the coaches more responsible for parents and player behavior may be our only way of controlling (this)”.
Asked if he thought the referees did an adequate job of enforcing conduct rules during Sunday’s matches, Heath said that referee Mike Riley likely tried to adapt his calls to the college sports culture, permitting conduct that would normally not be permissible. “In hindsight”, said Heath, the referee “should have disciplined the Yale player for his continued baiting of his opponent throughout the match”.
Heath went on to state that the College Squash Association is working to make structural improvements that may help avoid similar scenes in the future.
“The larger issue is that we are effectively a coach-run organization, and any potential transgressions of the rules are not dealt with in a completely objective manner, as we are all compatriots as well as competitors, and it’s difficult to adjudicate effectively on recruiting, behavioral and refereeing issues against our compatriots.
“Unintentionally, it becomes political. We need to be run by a larger organization that can apply a strict and objective code, and have serious incentives/penalties for transgressions. This is goal No.1 for the CSA, and hopefully we manage to solve this in time for next season.”