It has been quite an eventful 24 hours over at fair Harvard on the Kaw. Almost exactly 24 hours ago, a fight between the members of the football and basketball teams broke out at some place called Burge Union on KU's campus. In that fight, KU guard Tyshawn Taylor suffered a dislocated thumb that will keep him off the basketball court for three-to-four weeks. Reports are somewhat sketchy, but it's believed the fight may have gone something like this (Taylor is the kid in the sideways red hat). Also, the police in that video were arresting the walk-ons so the coaches would have someone to punish that wouldn't hurt the team too much.
Apparently, that wasn't enough carnage for all involved, as another fight between the same groups broke out about four hours later at the infamous Jayhawk Towers on KU's campus. In response to these fights, associate athletic director Jim Marchiony stated as follows:
"We’re aware of reports of an incident, and we are gathering facts as we speak," Marchiony said.
For those not fluent in "Jayhawk," that means they're trying to figure out whether anything was caught on tape, whether there are any witnesses that might talk to someone, and whether the crackerjack KU campus security is willing to let slide two separate incidents that undoubtedly involved multiple assaults and batteries (the article indicates punches were thrown and obviously Taylor was injured).
If it had just been that, it might have been a case of young men being really, exceedingly stupid, and doing it on KU's campus. Of course, you know that was not the extent of it. This morning, about the time KU athletic director Lew Perkins was issuing a statement essentially saying that he takes it seriously and would handle it internally, yet another fight on KU's campus broke out between the same groups. According to witnesses, this fight broke out when either Marcus or Markieff Morris threw a football player down a flight of stairs, and continued with punches being thrown and racial slurs hurled back and forth. The same report listed Sherron Collins and Taylor (he didn't get enough the night before) as present at the fight, as well as Dezmon Briscoe from the football team, among others. Again, details are sketchy, but it's believed this is an accurate representation of what went down this morning.
Obviously, there's been quite a bit of reaction to this. It ranges from frustration to boredom to anger and everywhere in between. Whatever your reaction to this, there should be one reaction conspicuously absent.
You really shouldn't be surprised.
Your hometown newspaper columnist isn't. Tom Keegan of the Lawrence Journal World wrote today that this is far, far from the first fight between the basketball and football teams. According to Keegan...
Bar owners and patrons know it. Students know it. Cops know it. The only reason you haven’t read more about it is because precise details of said skirmishes have been difficult to nail down.
While I respect Keegan as an entertaining local writer, isn't it a reporter's job to nail down difficult facts and report on incidents such as this? Maybe one bar fight isn't that big of a deal, but a series of incidents -- as this seems to be -- certainly is.
There is a reason parents punish (or should do so, I've seen some really terrible parents lately) children for aberrant behavior, whether it be by corporal punishment or depriving the child of doing something they enjoy. By receiving a harsh reaction for the behavior, children learn not to engage in it, lest they suffer the consequences.
Change "children" to "KU athletes" and "parents" to "authority figures in Lawrence," and you have the same story. Markieff Morris shot a woman with a BB gun on KU's campus while drinking as an 18 year old, and he got diversion and community service and was not suspended from any basketball games. Jocques Crawford was involved in an incident where teammate Ben Lueken ended up in the hospital after being thrown off Crawford's moving car, somehow he was arrested and then "unarrested" (whatever the hell that means), and disappeared from the KU football program and was never charged with a crime.
Before that, Sherron Collins ignored the requirements of the judicial system by ignoring a lawsuit filed against him for allegedly rubbing up on an employee at Jayhawk Towers on KU's campus. He got hit with a $75,000 default judgment before the lawsuit was eventually dropped.
Of course, legal incidents are hardly the end of the story at KU. In 2006, the school was hit with three years of probation after being slapped with the "lack of institutional control" tag by the NCAA. After winning a national championship in basketball, it was discovered that Darrell Arthur, a rather key component of that team, couldn't pass a high school algebra class on his own. South Oak Cliff, where Arthur played, has been stripped of two state championships (translation, the school has a track record in this area). I suppose you could shrug this off and say "well, KU didn't know about this," but the South Oak Cliff's track record and the fact that the NCAA voided Memphis' 2008 season after it was discovered that Derrick Rose's SAT score was bogus sort of undercut that argument.
Returning to the child metaphor from earlier, nobody is going to learn their lesson if punishment isn't meted out to those instigating this series of incidents. A lax administration and cooperative local media have combined to lead to situations like this. Until the athletes realize they will face real consequences -- and no, running stairs at 6:00 a.m. or being suspended for spring football or an exhibition basketball game against Washburn is not punishment to these athletes -- KU fans shouldn't be surprised at anything that happens in Lawrence.
And I really do mean anything.