I am sickened at what I witnessed yesterday in the match-up between the Houston Cougars and the Arizona Wildcats. When you view this clip (courtesy of YouTube and Rivals.com), I imagine you might feel the same. My stomach literally churns when I see it.
In the second half of a game that Houston was dominating, the Cougars' Aubrey Coleman was called for a charge after shoving Arizona's Chase Budinger to the floor while dribbling past the half-court line.
After the whistle, Coleman continued to walk forward and proceeded to intentionally stomp directly on the face of Budinger. It wasn't an accident; the video clearly shows Coleman walking straight over to Budinger and using force to plant his red and white Nike right into Budinger's craw.
As if that wasn't enough, Coleman then strolled away with a grin the Cheshire Cat would be envious of and received several accolades and high-fives from his teammates. Apparently, in Houston, you are to be congratulated for intentionally leaving an imprint of your shoe size on an opponent's face. Very classy, Cougars.
This incident is perhaps the most unsportsmanlike conduct I have ever witnessed on the court of a college basketball game.
Though Coleman was ejected for the "flagrant foul," that punishment is not nearly enough. He deserves a minimum ten-game suspension, but my recommendation is that his season ends today. The NCAA must send a clear, strong signal that this type of behavior will not be tolerated and will be met with the harshest of sanctions.
Houston's coach Tom Penders surely would take the time to apologize after the game, right? Not a chance.
Here's Penders' response: "I'm just sorry the official interpreted it that way. The way I saw it, Aubrey got tangled and his momentum carried him forward and I think it was a mistake."
It was a mistake for sure, but not one that had anything to do with entanglement or momentum.
I'll give Penders the benefit of the doubt and assume he hadn't yet seen the video. If he has seen the video and still has the same sentiments, then he is just as classless as Coleman. In fact, maybe he should be suspended for a game too since he could be held accountable for creating an environment where this type of play is acceptable.
Not that they need any further motivation, but the NCAA may also wish to nip this incident in the bud due to the possibility of racial undertones surfacing.
I am not at all insinuating that Coleman stomped Budinger because he was white, but "foot-stomping" has culturally had racial implications in America, and the incident has the possibility of being interpreted in that manner. There will also be the inevitable arguments that start with, "If Coleman had been white and Budinger had been black..."
Unlikely as it is, the last thing college basketball needs is any type of "race war".
As to the final outcome of the game, score one for karma. Houston went on to lose 96-90 in overtime despite dominating the game up until the incident.
The NCAA needs to move immediately and forcefully to make it clear that this must never happen again.
Update 1: Since this article was written, an apology was issued by Aubrey Coleman. The story with his statement can be read here. The apology, while certainly the right thing to do, does not change my mind on the punishment.
If he was truly "sorry from the bottom of his heart," then he should have apologized on the spot, after the game or that night. I am not in his heart or mind, so I can't say whether he is only sorry because he realizes he might be in for a big-time suspension. I can't help but wonder.
Update 2: In the last couple of hours (on the evening of Jan. 26), the University of Houston issued a statement that they were suspending Coleman for an additional one game, the upcoming game against UTEP, and that they now "consider the case closed."
We'll see. It appears that most people feel the punishment to be wholly inadequate, and the NCAA could still weigh in.