Mick Cronin working on school's image

Updated: December 14, 2011, 10:54 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

DAYTON, Ohio -- Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said the Bearcats must begin to repair their image immediately in the wake of Saturday's brawl between the Bearcats and Xavier at the Cintas Center that resulted in eight players being suspended.

"It starts tonight," Cronin told ESPN Wednesday before the Bearcats beat Wright State 78-58. "Both schools took a black eye over it. Our school took ownership and we're moving forward."

The Bearcats played the Raiders without Yancy Gates (six games), Chiekh Mbodj (six games), Octavius Ellis (six games) and Ge'Lawn Guyn (one game).

Xavier doesn't play until Sunday against Oral Roberts and will be without Tu Holloway (one game), Mark Lyons (two games), Dez Wells (four games) and Landen Amos (four games).

Cronin said that the four suspended Bearcats have a multiple step process to earning back a spot on the team, regardless of the game suspension.

"The first step was the apology," Cronin said of a Monday news conference in which the players apologized for their role in the melee. He then threw a veiled shot at Xavier to do the same. "Not everybody took that approach. It's something that I mandated. Everybody involved that threw punches hasn't stepped to the podium and apologized. Yancy Gates threw a punch but there were 50 punches thrown. My guy was egregious in the situation and needed to apologize and take ownership of the action."

Cronin said the four players were in anger management counseling Wednesday in Cincinnati since they weren't allowed to be with the team in Dayton.

Cronin said the players will also do community service. He said the school is working with the compliance department to see what is allowed. The original plan was to do something with high school students but because of NCAA rules, the service will likely be at the elementary school level.

And then, after the holidays and when the students return to school, there will be another apology.

"We're working with the student government to apologize to the student body because that's who we represent," Cronin said.

Cronin said that he expects all of the steps to be completed by the end of the six-game suspension, which would put the three players that received that level of penalty eligible to play on Jan. 4 against Notre Dame -- the second Big East game of the season. But Cronin said if the players don't finish the responsibilities and then they will not be reinstated.

Cronin said he wasn't surprised the district attorney, Joseph Deters, decided not to press charges against Gates or anyone else. Deters said in a release that there was an apology between Gates and Frease but Cronin said he wasn't aware and was staying out of those discussions. Cronin said he told his players, even those who are friends with Xavier players, to avoid contact with the other team at this time through any kind of messaging so as not to have any communication misconstrued.

Cronin said that he has gone over in his head what he could have done to prevent Saturday's fight. He said he has had very little sleep since Saturday.

"From 2 a.m. to 5 a.m.," Cronin said of his sleepless time. "When you go through something like this you start to replay it in your mind over and over again. There are so many things that could have happened to stop it."

Cronin said he called a team meeting Friday night because he knew the intensity of the rivalry had increased to a dangerous level.

Cronin said he implored the game officials to call technical fouls against either team when all the trash talking was going on between the two players. He said he told his team at the half to stop any of the talking.

"I told them to T everybody," Cronin said. "That's where it was unfortunate that (officials Tony Crisp, Michael Roberts and Jeff Anderson) walked into a situation that they were unprepared for. For the last three years there has been too much talking. I worried about this the night before. I knew something could happen. I tried to take every step to stop it but it still happened."

Cronin said when he told the one of the officials to issue technical fouls the response was "it will go both ways. And I said, 'I don't care. We can't have this.' This never should have happened."

Cronin said he was trying to call a timeout with 10 seconds left because he saw that a confrontation was about to happen. Video replays show Cronin looking toward the official, motioning to call timeout while the scrum is ensuing at the other corner near the UC bench.

Cronin said the postgame locker room scene was "a bad scene. A lot of guys were upset. I was upset. I have spent a lot of time with the president of the school, doing soul searching."

Cronin said he was involved in the number of games the players were suspended.

"We go back and forth about how many games," Cronin said. "What's right? Is there a right answer? The easy thing for the president and the athletic director was to suspend the players for the season. That would make them look good. But is that the right thing to do? Who knows. Some people think that's what should have happened. Some people think only one game, some say six, some say eight, some say 10. These arguments shouldn't be going on. At the end of the day, we have to learn the right lessons from it and ... make this a positive."

Cronin said he and Xavier coach Chris Mack will need to get together soon to discuss what occurred as well. As for the rivalry and the 80th meeting next year at Cincinnati, Cronin isn't so sure it should happen.

"There's no question that it's in doubt," Cronin said. "I'd be lying if I didn't say it's in question. We're going to take a hard look at it -- no question about it."

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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