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High school football coach benches entire team for character issues

Sep. 26, 2013 at 9:54 AM ET

Video: A high school football coach in Utah made off-the-field conduct his priority when he chose to bench all 50 players on his team. The coach says his players “lost their way,” and needed to improve their grades, attendance, and participate in community service in order to earn back the right to play. NBC’s Joe Fryer reports.

A Utah high school football coach suspended his entire team recently, and it had nothing to do with their performance on the field.

Matt Labrum, the head coach at Union High School in Roosevelt, Utah, benched all 50 of his players last weekend because of character issues. Fed up with poor grades, attendance and attitude problems, in addition to learning that one or two players may have been involved in cyber-bullying another student, Labrum ordered all of his players to turn in their jerseys and equipment following a loss to Judge Memorial Catholic on Sept. 20.

“We felt like our respect level for our students and to the teachers and things weren’t what we wanted that to be,’’ Labrum told TODAY’s Joe Fryer Thursday.

The players were given a letter signed by the coaching staff with a list of requirements they needed to fulfill if they wanted to play again. They had to take part in two days of community service, from gardening to window-washing, and complete a character education class. They also had to attend all of their classes without being late to any of them, and those with poor grades had to show improvement in order to get their places back on the team.

The team also elected new captains at a meeting, with only two of the seven captains chosen in the preseason being re-elected. The players are now preparing for their homecoming game against Emery High School on Friday night.

“We’ve cleaned up our act,’’ sophomore player Karter Rook told TODAY.

On Wednesday night, most of the players got their jerseys back during a team meeting, but 10 players did not because they failed to meet the requirements. The tough love was welcomed by the players’ parents.

“You’re held up to a higher standard, and your behavior better be up to snuff,’’ Jennifer Rook, Karter’s mother, told TODAY.

“It really brought us back down to earth, and I think it got people to do what they needed to do,’’ Karter said. 

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