Penalties pending after Cincinnati brawl

Updated: December 11, 2011, 2:04 AM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said late Saturday night there will be additional suspensions coming after the brawl that prematurely ended the Bearcats' 76-53 loss to Xavier earlier at the Cintas Center.

The fight forced game officials to call the game with 9.4 seconds left on Saturday.

Officials amended the postgame box score and ejected Cincinnati's Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj, as well as Xavier's Dez Wells. Based on NCAA rules, the ejected players will miss the next game.

Gates connected with a punch to Xavier's Kenny Frease and Mbodj then stepped on Frease, who emerged with a bloodied face and a black eye.

Big East commissioner John Marinatto and Atlantic 10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade have scheduled a Sunday morning conference call to discuss the brawl and the possibility of more suspensions if they don't think the schools act severely enough, a source with knowledge of the call told ESPN.com.

The ugly incident could also end the Crosstown Shootout series, which has been played 79 times since it started in 1928 between the city schools.

"It's a shame," Cronin said. "But I don't know how it doesn't get affected."

Cronin said he spent late Saturday afternoon and early evening reviewing tape of the game in his office to get a full picture of what occurred during the fight.

"Nobody is going to walk on our side," Cronin said. "Everybody is researching this and the appropriate punishments will be handed out to who deserves it.

"There are going to be suspensions. How long and how many is being decided. We have to make sure everyone gets this right. The Big East will be involved and that's smart. We'll have to check precedent. I've never been involved with something like this."

Cronin said he had no idea who was specifically involved in the fight during the melee or when he entered the postgame news conference. During the news conference, Cronin said in the locker room after the game he told players to take off their jerseys and physically helped a few players do so. He confirmed the story Saturday night.

I have never been this embarrassed in my entire career. It's a complete embarrassment. Toughness is doing the right thing. ... If my players don't act the right way, they will never play another game at Cincinnati.

-- Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin

"I have never been this embarrassed in my entire career," Cronin said.

"It's a complete embarrassment. Toughness is doing the right thing. You take your ass-whipping and go home. If my players don't act the right way, they will never play another game at Cincinnati."

Cronin said he and the school president will watch the tape and determine which players "remain on the team."

Xavier coach Chris Mack took a more measured approach.

"I'm not in a position to be a decision maker," said Mack by phone from the Cintas Center. "We'll address the situation and see what our conference feels is necessary. The bigger thing is that our kids in this situation need to learn how to handle themselves and not let that happen again.

"No one wanted the game to end like that. We wanted to have our seniors celebrate the Crosstown Shootout."

Cronin said late Saturday night he will meet with Cincinnati officials Sunday morning to break down the tape again. According to a source, there is an angle of the tape that wasn't on ESPN's telecast that shows Xavier's Tu Holloway instigating a scuffle with Cincinnati's Dion Dixon that the Bearcats plan to make available to all parties.

Cronin said he never saw Mbodj stomp on Frease. He said Mbodj missed Frease "but that's irrelevant. The whole thing is frustrating because it shouldn't have happened. Whether or not somebody charged at you, and there are camera angles that show Yancy was being charged, there's no excuse. It wasn't showing restraint. There's got to be punishment."

Conference officials are waiting to see what Xavier and Cincinnati decide about further penalties. But, according to a source, there will be more suspensions for players on both teams, in addition to the NCAA-mandated one-game suspensions.

Big East associate commissioner Dan Gavitt said the NCAA rule cannot be appealed, and if any player is suspended for a game because of a fight and gets in another altercation, then he would be suspended for the rest of the season.

[+] EnlargeKenny Frease
AP Photo/Al BehrmanXavier center Kenny Frease covers his swollen eye as he walks off the floor Saturday after being hit in the eye during a fight at the end of the game.

The A-10's McGlade, who did not see the fight live, told ESPN.com Saturday afternoon: "We're going to take the appropriate action."

McGlade said the conference will work with Xavier to see if more should be done depending on what the Musketeers decide.

The A-10 will take into account inflammatory postgame comments made by Xavier's Holloway and Mark Lyons in deciding on any discipline.

"That's what you're going to see from Xavier and Cincinnati," Holloway said. "We got disrespected a little bit before the game, guys calling us out. We're a tougher team. We're grown men over here. We've got a whole bunch of gangsters in the locker room -- not thugs, but tough guys on the court. And we went out there and zipped them up at the end of the game."

Gavitt said there is a conference code of sportsmanship that must be followed.

"We will talk to the officials and engage with the coaches and the institutions so it might take some time," Gavitt said. "We'll start with what penalties incurred through the game officials and go from there and see what is appropriate."

Gavitt said the conferences can also simply endorse what the university decides to do "and that could be the case with us and the A-10."

Xavier's Holloway, Lyons and Wells all had a part in escalating the situation. Lyons was squawking at the end of the half with the Cincinnati bench. Wells was seen shoving Ge'Lawn Guyn after Holloway and Guyn were jawing at the end of the game.

"We finished the game and guys were talking back and forth in the rivalry and a riot broke out," Holloway said by phone from the Cintas Center. "I think Dez was just being my teammate and protecting me. I think that's what escalated it to be honest. That was the start of the benches clearing."

Mack tweeted later Saturday afternoon, "If my players say they've been taught to be tough their whole life, they mean ON THE FLOOR. Nothing else is condoned."

Mack said Frease was being seen by doctors but had eight days to get ready for the Musketeers' next game Sunday against Oral Roberts. Cincinnati next plays Wednesday at Wright State.

"People have to understand that this is like Duke-Carolina," Holloway said of the Crosstown Shootout. "I don't think people get that."

Mack said in a tweet: "No one, no one regrets our ending to the UC game more than me. My 5 and 6 yr olds were in the stands. Both teams were at fault period."

Cincinnati president Gregory H. Williams issued a statement saying he was "extremely disappointed" with the players' conduct.

"I appreciate Coach Cronin's strong postgame comments, and I want to support his position that this behavior is not what we expect of representatives of the University of Cincinnati," Williams said. "We will thoroughly investigate this incident and will act swiftly and firmly. We hold our student-athletes to a high standard, and this behavior will not be tolerated."

Xavier president Rev. Michael J. Graham also released a statement apologizing to the "entire Cincinnati community."

"This behavior was not representative of Xavier's standards and has no place in intercollegiate athletics," Graham said. "Our basketball program is expected to, and has for so many years now, represented the highest ideals of sportsmanship and ethical conduct."

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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