As if college athletics hasn’t had enough black eyes recently, along came the Cincinnati-Xavier fight near the end of their intra-city rivalry Saturday. My take:
— I’m in agreement with just about every other opinion I’ve heard — that penalties handed out were too light. Three Cincy players — including Yancy Gates, who threw a punch that landed — got six games, but that only takes in one Big East game (Pitt, on Jan. 1). The next four games for the Bearcats are Wright State, Radford, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Chicago State. Big whoop. Tu Holloway, the mouthy All-American from Xavier, got away with a one-game suspension even though he did more than his share of taunting. And his post-game comments — that his teammates were “gangsters” (you assume he meant it in a positive way, but still a horrible choice of words) and that this is the sort of thing you have to expect when Xavier plays Cincinnati — were an embarrassment. As a press person, I’m obviously on the side of greater access, but this might have been one time when a school would have been advised to keep a lid on its players.
— It’s too easy for the Big East and Atlantic-10 Conferences essentially to wash their hands of the incident. They should have stepped in and levied their own penalties of at least a couple of games — conference games.
— What sort of implications might this mean for relations between two campuses just four miles from each other? You have to think some of the same players are going to be in a restaurant or bar or a playground at some point.
— As obvious as it is that what these players did was wrong, such antics invite something of a gray area for coaches. They value toughness, they want players not to back down, yet they can’t condone it when their players step over the line and get physical. Even Arizona coach Sean Miller got caught up in it the other night. He was quoted that he was “proud of” the Xavier players (Xavier is his previous port of call) but the school hastily put out a statement Monday afternoon that he was speaking generally about their undefeated start, not their comportment against the Bearcats. “My comments were directed toward my admiration of their on-the-court toughness,” Miller said in part in a statement. “In no way was I condoning a fight.”