Earlier today, we saw a great rivalry - Xavier v. Cincinnati - sullied by a bench-clearing brawl with 9.4s left in the game. This game was prefaced by some unnecessary talking by Cincinnati (stating one of the country's best players - Tu Holloway from Xavier - couldn't start for the Bearcats). Game was chippy throughout, but culminated in Tu Holloway effectively starting the fracas being up 23 points with less than 10 seconds on the clock.
What followed was, in a word, ridiculous:
There is no place for this in athletics, let alone collegiate athletics.
I have no doubt that the Big East, the Atlantic-10, and the NCAA will review and hand down discipline. I also have no doubt that the disciplines handed down will be nowhere near appropriate for the gravity of the situation.
I don't care how heated a rivalry is, it's a game. Play the damn game. It doesn't matter how embarrassed you get on the floor, or how much your "manhood" is challenged. It's a game. There is no place for this behavior. This behavior is criminal, but will be treated as little more than an unfortunate incident during a basketball game.
Here is what should happen. I know it won't, but I'm dead serious. This should be the fall-out:
- Tu Holloway and the Cincinnati player that started the fight should both be suspended for the season. I understand the ramifications of this for Xavier. The problem is that Holloway didn't think about that before he started running his mouth. I would have let him slide with a 7-10 game suspension, but then we see him jump on the scorer's table after the fight and egg on the crowd, then we hear him give a little soundbyte after the game referring to his team as "gangsters", and how the team talks about "zipping them up" (as in body bag). These are completely inappropriate actions and comments, regardless of context. Holloway is the senior leader of Xavier, and he should know better. He should not have been involved, he should be striking down the actions of others; instead, he's condoning this very event. Done for the year. I don't care if it means the end of his NCAA career, and neither should the NCAA.
- Cincinnati player Yancy Gates should be suspended for the season for his punch to Kenny Frease. Furthermore, Kenny Frease should be encouraged to press criminal charges against Gates. If that were to occur, Gates should then be dismissed from the team.
- Mark Lyons (Xavier) and the Cincinnati bench player that got in each other's faces should be suspended for 2 games in addition to whatever their involvement in the brawl yields.
- Based on review of the footage, every single person that did ANYTHING beyond trying to restrain their own teammates should be suspended for a minimum of 5 games.
- Xavier head coach Chris Mack should be placed on administrative leave without pay for 3 games. Was he imminently culpable for anything that went down? No, other than he is ultimately the responsible for the team. He should not have let any of his players, without exception, speak with the media following the fight. With the talk that was happening leading up to the game, Mack should have had his team - all members - in the right frame of mind. It's clear they weren't.
- Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin should also be placed on administrative leave without pay for 3 games. At the end of the day, he clearly didn't get his team to shut up and play basketball, either. Both coaches are guilty by omission, in my mind. They didn't do anything, but they didn't do anything to stop this before it happened, either. As such, they're both partially responsible.
- The officiating staff should be issued a formal reprimand for not addressing this issue at halftime when the first confrontation occurred. One referee simply just stepped in and separated Lyons and the Cincinnati player - both should have been assessed a technical foul at that point, with both head coaches/benches warned. Along with the coaches, THEY had to know it was heading in this direction, and did nothing to try and prevent it.
I know this may seem extreme, but the NCAA has to accurately, absolutely and unquestionably convey that this type of behavior will absolutely NOT be tolerated, under any uncertain circumstances.
Jacob Pullen received a 3 game suspension for getting $100 in discounts for clothes. His "crime" didn't hurt ANYONE. These guys carried out a streetfight during a basketball game. The repercussions MUST match the reprehensible nature of the actions.