Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 12/11/11
CINCINNATI -- Both Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati announced suspensions Sunday for basketball players involved in the brawl that prematurely ended Saturday's game. Both went soft. Cincinnati gave six-game suspensions to three players, including Yancy Gates, who threw the ball at Xavier's Tu Holloway at the start of the fracas and punched Kenny Frease in the face, knocking Frease to the floor and leading to Frease getting stomped on by Cincinnati's Cheikh Mbodj, who also will miss six games. Gates throwing the ball at Holloway is what led to fists flying and Cincinnati players coming off the bench. Like Holloway at Xavier and his constant taunts of the Cincinnati bench, he's a senior and should be both a leader and held to a higher standard. Gates punching Frease was a product of failures by a lot of people -- starting with the officials, and both coaches have also taken some level of blame -- and it was an inexcusable lack of judgment that reflects poorly on Gates, the Cincinnati program and the University of Cincinnati. That's essentially what Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said in his postgame press conference. Cronin's raw emotion then and his insistence that the incident was "embarrassing" and that there was "zero excuse" emerged as reasonable, sound thinking amidst a five-alarm mess. He said he was so disgusted by his players' actions that made every player in his locker room take off his jersey and in some cases he physically took them off. Leaving the door open for three players to get their jerseys back after just six games doesn't seem to fit the crimes. Given his physical stature and his standing among his teammates, Gates could have set an example and walked away. The Bearcats had listened to Holloway and Mark Lyons long enough; 15 seconds more and the game would have been over. Xavier coach Chris Mack said Sunday he should have called timeout and taken his starters off the floor. Cronin was trying to call timeout when the fight started as he'd listened to Holloway and Lyons throughout the day and said he'd told officials if they didn't step in, something bad would happen. When it did, bodies, punches and kicks started flying everywhere. Xavier gave a one-game suspension to Holloway, two to Lyons and four-game suspensions to freshman Dez Wells and sophomore Landen Amos. Mack and Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski announced the suspensions during a Sunday press conference at which Holloway also apologized for his actions both during and after the game, when he said that Xavier has "some gangsters in the locker room, not thugs but tough guys on the court." Holloway made a poor choice of words that followed a crazy incident. Mack said he deserves the blame for the press conference, but just as bad as sending Holloway and Lyons to the interview room so soon after the fight was allowing the players to come back out onto the floor after the fight. That's when more preening, more flexing, more standing on the scorer's table took place. Bobisnki said Sunday that he has spoken to his counterpart at UC, Whit Babcock, about "unnecessary moments" surrounding the heated rivalry and ways both schools can both clean things up and portray a positive message. Bobinski also said "there was no celebration" because the fight overshadowed the game, but there was plenty of celebration when Xavier's players came back on to the floor after Cincinnati's players had been escorted to the locker room. There was bad judgment all around. On Xavier's side, it was more than four players and 11 total games' worth. The Cincinnati suspensions cover a stretch of games that includes Wright State, Radford, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Chicago State and Oklahoma. The trio will only be suspended for one Big East game, the Jan. 1 conference opener at Pitt. Maybe Cronin still plans to enforce further penalties and follow through on what he initially said. Presumably, some players -- Gates, specifically -- won't be back in uniform until and unless Cronin is absolutely sure that proper lessons have been learned and proper priorities are in place. Now, we don't know. We can only evaluate off the number of games announced Sunday. The show has to go on, sure, but didn't Cronin insist that the show getting out of control needed to be addressed before anybody worried about basketball again? Undefeated Xavier plays next Sunday vs. Oral Roberts, then plays three games at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii. Wells will miss all of those games. Lyons will miss the tournament opener against Long Beach State, a quality opponent that's already beaten Pitt and played North Carolina to the wire on Saturday. You'd hope that didn't enter the thought process during the discussions about the penalties. With Holloway getting just one game, you can't help but wonder if it did. Considering Lyons was taunting Octavius Ellis (the third Cincinnati player to get a six-game suspension) during the national anthem and while the ball was in play during the final possession of the first half -- in addition to whatever else he may be responsible for -- he deserved multiple games for his role as instigator. Holloway apologized on Sunday for his comments, and both he and Mack reiterated that his "gangsters" and "thugs" comment was simply Holloway choosing the wrong words in expressing his pride in Xavier's basketball toughness. It's believable. It would be more believable if Holloway got a game suspension for his postgame comments and at least one more game for his actions during the game and after the fight, when he was celebrating atop the scorer's table with Mack on the ground, grabbing at his jersey and trying to drag him down. If Xavier is going to win the way it wants to win this season, Holloway has to lead the way. He should know better. He should have been better -- during and after the game. "Coach Mack always reminds me 'You're the leader of this team, the young guys are gonna do what you're gonna do,'" Holloway said Sunday. Which is exactly why a longer suspension should be in order. And Holloway certainly is not the only one in this case who beat the system.
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