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Archive for Wednesday, March 4, 1992

NCAA FIGHT RULE MUCH TOO HARSH IN NEWEST FORM

March 4, 1992

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Darwyn Alexander no doubt watched Monday night's Kansas-Oklahoma State basketball game on television back home in Stillwater.

Too bad. He should have been allowed to play against the Jayhawks.

Okie State's veteran guard was forced to sit out the Kansas game as punishment for fighting with Nebraska's Jamar Johnson in the Cowboys' previous game. Johnson had to miss a game, too.

Under a two-year-old NCAA rule, an automatic ejection and a one-game suspension are cut-in-stone punishments for fighting. Previously, the rule wasn't as harsh.

No one condones fighting, of course, yet I don't believe the current penalty fits the crime. In the past, players who fought were ejected but did not draw a one-game suspension.

INSTEAD, THEY were placed on probation and warned that another incident would lead to a one-game banishment. Further, a third fist-swinging fair would end the miscreant's season.

Now it's two strikes and you're history. If either Alexander or Johnson puts up his dukes again, his season is over. That includes postseason tournaments, too.

What constitutes a fight? Whatever an official judges is a fight.

John Erickson, the Big Eight's director of basketball operations, watched the Nebraska-Oklahoma State game on television and didn't know if Alexander and Johnson had been whistled for fighting until he called head official Mike Tanco the next morning.

"Remember that fight in the Arkansas-UNLV game last year?" Erickson asked me. "All they did in that game was call technical fouls. There weren't even any flagrant fouls."

Erickson also cited a melee in last year's Kansas State-Oklahoma State game during the Big Eight tournament.

"JIM BAIN worked that game and Bain did not determine it was a fight," Erickson said. "Only the official can determine if it's a fight."

When Erickson called Tanco, he learned that Alexander and Johnson had indeed been assessed with flagrant fouls for fighting, as opposed to simple flagrant fouls.

"If it's a flagrant foul," Erickson explained, "there's still an ejection, but no suspension. That's for something like spitting. Every flagrant foul is an ejection, but not always a suspension."

In other words, throwing a punch is worse than spitting, even if the punch misses, I assume, and the spit doesn't.

Regardless, Erickson stresses prevention, urging Big Eight officials to step in quickly at the slightest indication of provocation.

"I've seen about 14 instances this season of players wanting to do something, but the officials have been right there," Erickson said. "There's one league in America I won't tell you what it is where they let 'em fight and just suspend them."

IF A PLAYER is automatically suspended for fighting, why is the punishment for taunting merely a technical foul? After all, taunting is probably the catalyst in the majority of fights.

Kansas State's Askia Jones drew a T for a taunt in the Kansas game 10 days ago. And K-State fans were griping because a couple of Kansas players taunted the Bramlage Coliseum crowd afterward.

Curiously, taunts and fights that occur after games do not fall under NCAA jurisdiction because the officials are no longer in control once the clock runs out.

Therefore if Alexander and Johnson had waited until after the game to brawl, the NCAA couldn't have touched them. . .although I'm sure they'd have seen the inside of somebody's woodshed.

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