Brittney Griner: Will NCAA Suspend Baylor Star for Leaving Bench vs. Tennessee?

Eric BallFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2012

SAN ANTONIO - APRIL 04:  Center Brittney Griner #42 of the Baylor Bears is pressured by Tina Charles #31 and Caroline Doty #5 of the Connecticut Huskies during the Women's Final Four Semifinals at the Alamodome on April 4, 2010 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

We have a major controversy in the women’s NCAA tournament.

In the final minute of a 77-58 Baylor blowout over Tennessee, star center Brittney Griner came off the bench to help her teammates that were engaged in a shoving match against the Vols.  

Little did Griner know the potential ramifications of such a move as many immediately began to question her playing status for the Bears' next contest. 

Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle wonders if a suspension will be in order for Griner:

46 seconds left in the game and Britney Griner leaves the bench to breakup a fight. Ejected. Possible automatic suspension for Final Four?

— Jerome Solomon (@JeromeSolomon) March 27, 2012

It sounds like Griner will be able to avoid suspension, according to ESPN’s Rebecca Lobo:

No automatic suspension unless there was a fight and bench players got involved. GRINER AND COMPANY WILL PLAY NEXT GAME!!

— Rebecca Lobo (@RebeccaLobo) March 27, 2012

Remember when Amar'e Stoudemire was suspended for a crucial NBA playoff game years ago for leaving the bench? Why shouldn’t Griner receive a similar punishment? ESPN analyst Kara Lawson explains:  

This flagrant 2 technical foul applies to the team foul total, and the offenders shall be ejected but NOT subject to suspension.

— Kara Lawson (@karalawson20) March 27, 2012

Griner had another spectacular performance (23 points, 15 rebounds, nine blocks) and played 39 minutes, meaning she had literally been on the bench for seconds before popping back up to defend her teammates.

After the NCAA reviewed the tape and circumstances, they made an official decision that there was no fight, which means Griner’s participation was not suspension-worthy, according to Chris Solari of the Lancing State Journal:

Deemed no fight; no suspensions RT @ESPN_WomenHoop Head of officials told reporters that there will be no Baylor suspensions via @MechelleV

—Chris Solari (@chrissolari) March 27, 2012

The entire women’s college basketball world just breathed a huge sigh of relief. Griner is the most dominant force in the sport in the last decade, and the Final Four would not be the same without her.

The top-seeded Bears are looking to finish off a perfect season, and there is no way they could do it without their star center.

It was a tense moment for the team, but Griner and her Bears are alive and well as the favorites to cut down the nets next week at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo.