Xavier, Cincinnati Suspensions Are in Line with Past NCAA Punishments for Fights
The day after Saturday's NCAA Div. I men's basketball game between Cincinnati and Xavier ended in a benches-clearing brawl, both schools announced disciplinary actions taken against their respective players who participated in the fight.
Cincinnati's Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj—who had been ejected from the contest for fighting—were suspended for six games each, as was freshman Octavius Ellis. Ge'Lawn Guyn was additionally suspended for one game.
Because this incident occurred in early December, approximately a month before conference play traditionally begins, Gates and Mbodj will only miss one Big East contest. Accordingly, Ellis and Guyn are not expected to miss the conference opener.
Meanwhile, Xavier's Dezmine Wells—the only Musketeers player who was ejected—received a four-game suspension, as did walk-on Landen Amos. Junior Mark Lyons received a two-game sentence and Tu Holloway was suspended for one game.
Despite the heavy criticism being levied against both Cincinnati and Xavier for what some analysts have described as inadequate disciplinary measures, a wide range of prior NCAA suspensions for fighting or punching suggest this group of suspensions is indeed sufficient.
Read on for a partial history of significant fight- and punch-related suspensions.
1987: None, Syracuse and Providence
No Suspensions for Fight
The NCAA fell victim to a series of wild fights and brawls in the mid-to-late 1980s, many of which went completely unpunished because of a lack of rules and regulations.
One such event involved Syracuse and Providence, in which a significant number of players from both teams wildly threw punches in a bench-clearing brawl underneath Syracuse's basket.
In an effort to end the wild days of college basketball, the NCAA introduced Rule 19 during the 1988 offseason, establishing a mandatory one game suspension for participation in a fight. The rule also stipulated a mandatory season-long suspension for a second offense.
Though Rule 19 has since become Rule 10-7, it has survived 23 years without any significant modification.
The first fight an individual participates in still results in a one game suspension and the second fight during the same season still results in a remainder-of-the-season banishment.
1991: 6 Players, Florida State University and FAMU
Length of Suspensions: One Game Each
Long before Sam Cassell retired from professional basketball, he was a point guard for Florida State University and was involved in one of the ugliest brawls in the history of college basketball.
On an otherwise calm Saturday night in early December, 1991, Cassell's FSU Seminoles and the Florida A&M Rattlers were engaged in a hard-fought intrastate battle.
With 1:22 remaining in the first half, Seminoles guard Charlie Ward scored a breakaway layup after stealing the ball from FAMU forward Reggie Finney.
Immediately after the score, Finney pushed Ward, setting off a bench-clearing brawl that saw no less than 18 players ejected, including 15 FAMU Rattlers.
Among those ejected was 6-foot-3 Cassell, who had become entangled with FAMU's 6-foot-8 center Anton Walton. Just in case the former NBA-er needed any reminder of his poor choice in picking a sparring partner, Walton pounded away at a fallen Cassell near FSU's endline.
The Rattlers' Andrew Lovett also had kicked Seminoles starter Ray Donald in the head, suffering a minor concussion.
Lovett was one of just three FAMU players not to be ejected for fighting or leaving the bench.
Because FAMU was left with only three players after the officials had finalized their ejections, the game was forfeited and FSU credited with a 2-0 victory.
Yet in the NCAA's first high-profile brawling incident since their fighting rules had been introduced, no player was suspended for more than one game.
1992: Shaquille O'Neal and Carlus Groves, LSU and Tennessee
Length of Suspension: One Game Each
During the second half of the SEC tournament's LSU vs. Tennessee contest, Louisiana State center Shaquille O'Neal was driving down the lane on his way for one of his trademark slam dunks.
With LSU leading at the time 73-51, Tennessee was becoming frustrated and Shaq's easy slam was a perfect opportunity to vent some of that frustration.
Tennessee's Carlus Groves opted to grab LSU's star center around the waist for an intentional foul which bordered on flagrant.
O'Neal and Groves immediately confronted each other, inciting a quasi-bench-clearing brawl and resulting in the immediate ejection of O'Neal and Groves.
Eight additional players—four from each school—were additionally ejected for leaving their respective benches during the fight.
Though the contest continued and LSU prevailed, 99-89, the fight's two participants escaped with just one game suspensions.
1993: Andy Kilbride, Cedric Neloms and Matt Purdy, Wisconsin and Northwestern
Length of Suspensions: One Game Each
In a 1993 game which saw the ejection of five players during a fight at center court, the Big Ten suspended Wisconsin Badgers guard Andy Kilbride one game for throwing a "retaliatory" punch at Northwestern's Cedric Neloms.
Even though the conference determined Neloms had instigated the fight, his punishment was no more severe than Kilbride's—Neloms and fellow Northwestern forward Matt Purdy received a pair of one game suspensions per then-NCAA basketball rule 4-13.
In the early days of the NCAA's rules on fighting and suspensions, punishment beyond a single-game suspension was virtually unheard of—no matter who started the melee and who threw the most damaging haymaker.
2002: Matt Barnes, UCLA
Length of Suspension: One Game
In February of 2002, UCLA Bruins forward Matt Barnes threw a forearm at Cal Bears guard Shantay Leagans, knocking Leagans out with just one blow.
The officials who had worked the 69-51 UCLA victory in which Barnes had punched Leagans also ejected Barnes for the offense of fighting.
Per NCAA rules, ejections for fighting draw an automatic one game suspension, which is exactly what Pac-10 Conference Commissioner Tom Hansen issued.
Unlike Cincinnati's Yancy Gates who received a six game suspension for throwing a punch that knocked Xavier's Kenny Frease to the ground, the Pac-10 Conference did not see fit to extend Barnes' suspension to anything further than one game.
2002: Billy Richmond, Clyde Wade and Antwan Emsweller, Memphis and Arkansas P.B.
Length of Suspension: One Game Each
During a late Nov., 2002 Memphis vs. Arkansas Pine Bluff contest, seven players were ejected when a fight broke out late in the first half.
During a scramble for a loose ball, Memphis guards Billy Richmond, Clyde Wade and Arkansas Pine Bluff's Antwan Emsweller took the traditional jockeying for control to new heights as they were each found to have committed fight-like actions that helped provoke the loose ball brawl.
Once again, both schools, their conferences and the NCAA determined that one game suspensions were entirely appropriate and no further discipline would be necessary.
2007: 5 Players, Wyoming and New Mexico
Length of Suspensions: Five Games (One Player), Two Games (Two Players), One Game (Two Players)
When the Wyoming Cowboys took on the New Mexico on January 30, 2007, a second half fight broke out when several players fell to the ground.
In the end, Wyoming's Brandon Ewing and New Mexico's Darren Prentice received one-game suspensions while Wyoming's Brad Jones and New Mexico's Jamaal Smith received two-game suspensions.
The most flagrant offender, Wyoming's Joseph Taylor, drew an indefinite suspension which ended up lasting five games.
The three players who received multiple-game suspensions were additionally cited for violating the Mountain West Conference's sportsmanship rules and were wisely prohibited from participating in the New Mexico vs. Wyoming rematch, which was played one month later without incident.
2010: Brittney Griner, Baylor
Length of Suspension: Two Games
On the women's side, Baylor's Brittney Griner threw a wild punch at Texas Tech's Jordan Barncastle during the Lady Bears' victory in March of 2010.
Barncastle suffered a nasal fracture as a result of the punch and the contest proceeded from that point without incident.
Players stayed on the bench, the remaining players and referees acted as peacemakers and Griner was rightly ejected.
The two game suspension was announced by Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey after being given the all-clear by Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe.
2010: Elgin Bailey and Renardo Sidney, Mississippi State
Length of Suspensions: Two Games Each
For Mississippi State's Renardo Sidney, fighting with a teammate was unfortunately not a new experience.
The NCAA or Mississippi State had suspended Sidney several times for both eligibility and behavioral reasons, including one suspension just days earlier for a similar fighting incident during practice.
Though Sydney had been with Mississippi State the year prior, he had played only two games for the Bulldogs, primarily because of a full-season suspension due to eligibility issues.
Because the fight did not occur during a game, no suspension was required by rule and the Bulldogs imposed their own punishment based on coach Rick Stanbury's judgment.
In the end, the animosity was too much for Bailey, who tranfered to Southeastern Louisiana University in mid-January.
NCAA transfer rules mandate that Bailey sit out a full year at Southeastern Louisiana, which means he will be eligible to play basketball once again in January.
Various Years: Football Does It Differently
Length of Suspensions: Wide Range, From Zero Games to an Entire Season
If basketball's penalties seem too weak, NCAA football must do something right.
Football's rules do not necessarily mandate one game suspensions for fights and fighting actions which occur during games, though the sport does make provisions for one-half suspensions.
Instead, the NCAA and its conferences review each incident on a case-by-case basis and determine appropriate punishments, which may ultimately be nothing, a one-half or full game suspension, or a multiple-game suspension.
For instance, when Oregon's LaGarrett Blount punched Boise State's Byron Hout at the end of a 19-8 Broncos victory in 2009, OSU's Chip Kelly never hesitated in suspending Blount for the entire 2009 football season.
When a brawl broke out during a Western Illinois vs. Western Kentucky Division I-AA semifinal playoff game in 2002, the NCAA suspended five players for two postseason games and nine players for one postseason game.
The NCAA additionally took the extreme step of banning one player from future postseason play entirely while that player's school—Western Kentucky—booted the offender from the football team.
Even though football plays significantly fewer games than basketball, their punishments for fighting appear to be more flexible and often can be more severe.
2011: 8 Players, Xavier and Cincinnati
Length of Suspensions: Six Games (Three Players), Four Games (Three Players), Two Games (One Player), One Game (One Player)
As a result of this melee that ended in a referee's declaration of a forfeit, eight players were suspended anywhere from one to six games each.
Considering NCAA basketball suspension precedent, the punishments doled out in the aftermath of the Cincinnati vs. Xavier game-ending brawl seem more severe than the discipline that basketball usually administers.
Logically, this series of judgment is too strict.
Realistically, however, these statistically harsher penalties somehow seem too mild.
In the end, perhaps it is high time for another revision to the NCAA basketball rules book. Perhaps this whole episode means that standardizing punishment isn't really all that fair to begin with.
Basketball's 23-year-old automatic suspension rule just might be a little outdated.
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