In a span of a few hours on Jan. 8 some college basketball players and coaches literally put up a fight. The violence all in one day:
– Duke’s Grayson Allen, known for his propensity to trip opponents by kicking out his foot, appeared to stick out his foot again when the Blue Devils played Boston College. The ACC did not penalize Allen because it could not determine if his foot struck the Eagles’ player in the midsection by accident. This came after Allen was suspended for one game after tripping an Elon player in late December.
– Coaches from Missouri and Georgia – in a sight rarely seen – tussled at halftime after players from both teams fought over a rebound following the buzzer to end the first half.
– Oregon’s Dillon Brooks was ejected for kicking a Washington State player in the groin while lying on the ground after falling while trying to corral a rebound. Brooks was the third Pac-12 player who was ejected last weekend after two players from Colorado and Arizona State were thrown out for flagrant 2 fouls after a scuffle broke out from beneath the basket.
– The most disturbing of the physical activity of Jan. 8 was the brawl between the women’s teams of Utah State and UNLV in which punches were thrown and the benches cleared. Eight players were ejected – four from each team – after the melee finally cleared.
What can be made of this rash of violence? Do the combatants behave as such because they do not fear recourse? Are athletic administrators and coaches doing enough to prevent these alarming occurrences from happening?
– Allen, for example, had three separate tripping incidents before Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski determined enough was enough. Allen reportedly was suspended indefinitely … for one game.
– The SEC reportedly opted to only discuss the matter with the coaches involved in the Missouri-Georgia shove match instead of levy suspensions.
– The Pac-12 determined that Colorado’s Xavier Johnson and ASU’s Jethro Tshisumpa were not involved in a fight but instead engaged in “excessive contact.” They were not suspended from playing in their following game, the NCAA rule following an ejection for fighting. The conference also did not suspend Brooks after reviewing the play and determined the ejection from the game was sufficient.
– The Mountain West handed down one-game suspensions to UNLV’s Katie Powell and Paris Strawther and Utah State’s Antoina Robinson for the gruesome fight between them. Powell and Robinson were the combatants. Strawther was suspended “for making physical contact while trying to break up the incident,” the conference stated. The six bench players ejected – three from each team – for leaving their seats were not suspended and given only a public reprimand.
Four separate incidents – punches thrown, players kicked, benches cleared, players ejected and coaches shoving each other – gave college basketball a black eye (figuratively) in one day. Yet, only three players served a one-game suspension each.
Is that sending a dangerous message?
Thirteen different men’s programs have players who have been ejected in 2016-17 with a little more than two months remaining, a slight increase from last season. The number was 24 last season. Scuffles in college basketball have happened before. They will happen again.
The significance of what happened Jan. 8 shows college and conference administrators that some violence can happen anytime. Tempers will flare and who knows how far a confrontation can go? In many cases, that is uncontrollable by each of the institutions involved other than mandatory training for players to avoid unnecessary conflict.
What can be controlled is proper disciplinary measures when a coach or player engages in any kind of excessive physical activity. Facing no suspension or only a one-game suspension does not strike fear for the players, many of whom are younger than 20.
What happened in these incidents carries a disbelief that far exceeds the reaction of how they were dealt with. In that sense, violence in basketball has become no different than a hockey fight. It is an accepted part of that game.
Javier Morales has worked as a sports journalist for more than 25 years. He reported for The Arizona Daily Star for 13 years. He was the Star’s beat reporter for the Arizona men’s basketball program when the Wildcats won the national title in 1996-97. A 2010 Arizona Press Club award winner, Morales operates the blog site AllSportsTucson.com.