Kansas playing dodgeball

September 24, 2009


As if athletic director Lew Perkins didn’t have enough things bumming him out Wednesday, he just had to know his archenemy, T-shirt creator Larry Sinks of Joe College, was busy at work cashing in on his misery.

Sure enough, Sinks, a marketing genius, already had come up with a blue and white T-shirt sure to be a big seller. On the front, in block lettering: “HAWK FOOTBALL & BASKETBALL.” On the back, in cursive: “Can’t We All Just Get Along?”

Funny, but not nearly the funniest thing printed Wednesday in Lawrence. That came hours later, when the athletic department issued a “statement,” from six student-athletes, the captains from the football and basketball teams. The “statement” did not explain just how these six young men came up with the exact same words to say simultaneously, so we’ll assume it was just a remarkable coincidence.

It was four paragraphs and could be summed up in four words: Blah, blah, blah, blah.

A request for an interview of Tyshawn Taylor was not granted. The basketball players were shielded from interviews. Is Taylor sorry about throwing a punch that resulted in a dislocated thumb? Or is he proud? On his Facebook page he indicated it was no big deal, just something the newspaper was blowing out of proportion. Wednesday afternoon, as he passed a few media members, he glared at them, hardly looking contrite.

Nobody from the KU athletic department stepped in front of a TV camera to apologize for athletes embarrassing the entire university and by extension the entire state of Kansas. Something this serious called for either Perkins or the new chancellor, Bernadette Gray-Little, to serve as face of the university. Perkins’ statement said he was taking this “seriously.” The chancellor issued an impressive statement in a release, other than the part about calling the statement from the teams’ leaders “strong.” Lame would have been a better word, since one statement had six names on it. It would have been so much more powerful had Perkins or Gray-Little taken questions from the media in a live press conference. If that doesn’t happen soon, this story lingers. Here’s guessing the chancellor doesn’t want that.

Nobody stepped in front of a TV camera to share his or her revulsion over the words Taylor used on his Facebook page. All the student-athletes, by the way, are told every year to avoid putting anything on their Facebook pages they wouldn’t want to read or see on the Internet message boards and in newspapers. Some listen. Some don’t. Taylor didn’t fear discipline from his coaches when he wrote disgusting words, some apparently from garbage lyrics, on his page. Time for the basketball staff to crack down on the players’ use of social media, lest the public find out what some of them are really like.

The fact there was a fight between football and basketball players Tuesday night that was reported on and another broke out Wednesday shows the players responsible don’t appear afraid of consequences.

KU football coach Mark Mangino has shown time and time again he doesn’t care how much talent a player has when doling out suspensions (Aqib Talib, Dezmon Briscoe). Can the same be said of basketball coach Bill Self? Not if Taylor doesn’t get suspended.


Alabamastreet 8 years, 7 months ago

In summary: Some players lost control and acted stupid. As a result Tom Keegan lost control and wrote something stupid. I forgive them all.

cato_the_elder 8 years, 7 months ago

Tom, great column. While some may not be disturbed by this, many of us are, and want answers - especially as to how long this apparent feud has been going on and why, and what needs to be done, including expulsions from the teams or even from the university if necessary, to stop it.

jaywalker 8 years, 7 months ago

"Is Taylor sorry about throwing a punch that resulted in a dislocated thumb?"

Well, he should be embarassed at the least. Dislocating a thumb while throwing a punch usually occurs when someone doesn't know how to fight and they tuck their thumb inside their fist like a little kid.

Come on, cato. "Expulsions from the team or even the university..."?! Is that what should transpire if this were to have happened between two frats? How 'bout just a few kids from the dorms? Let's not be ridiculous and reactionary. This sort of confrontation happens between young men, particularly when they've maxxed out testosterone levels. There were no weapons, there was one minor injury and, as I outlined above, it seems to have been self-induced. If this happened between anyone else it's at most a 3 line blurb in a paper and nobody would get expelled from anything.
A game suspension might be in order but kicking someone out of school or off the team? Gimme a break.

Stebbins 8 years, 7 months ago

Tom is right. KU officials have a responsibility here to face the music by facing direct questions from the media. It's a reasonable expectation. KU has to treat this seriously - the alternative is the perception that they just don't care.

WilburM 8 years, 7 months ago

Given the substantial, negative national publicity here, to label this just a scuffle is turning a blind eye. There's a history here, and this thuggery completely undermines all the good PR from the Football suites money going to academics (sooner or later).

Must have been fun for Bill Self to recruit while this news was breaking...

In the end, this is the Chancellor's baby -- a tough introduction to KU athletics, but maybe a little more realistic that all the self-congratulations over the Gridiron Club $$$.

cato_the_elder 8 years, 7 months ago

Only a naive person would compare the seriousness of this - in terms of KU's image, both regionally and nationally - to a fight between "two frats." If KU officials were to begin talking in terms of expulsions and be damn serious about it, then they might get some results. If indeed this has been going on for over a year, the offending parties have been coddled for way too long.

Bob_Keeshan 8 years, 7 months ago

A TV camera?

Get real. Here's a guy who isn't interested in this story or the university's handling of it at all.

All he's interested in is gossip. This is the same nonsense he was spewing on the radio yesterday.

If you want to write gossip, Mr. Keegan, I suggest you move back to New York City. There is a difference between holding student athletes to a higher standard and creating a completely different standard altogether for those athletes.

cthulhu_4_president 8 years, 7 months ago

At least the sholarships the kids are on aren't on your (taxpayer) tab. My opinion is not our team, not our money, not our problem, not our business (how they discipline). Any desire to see this kids punished outside of the norm is obviously from some perceived embarrassment, which will only be tangibly felt by the coaching staff and the donors who ARE paying for them.

I hate to dissillusion anyone, but things worse than this happen every weekend at numerous parties throughout town. The only difference is that they are not in a national spotlight, and we are actually paying to keep that breed of scum in school through their student loans. Priorities, people.

"The fact there was a fight between football and basketball players Tuesday night that was reported on and another broke out Wednesday shows the players responsible don’t appear afraid of consequences."

No, it shows that they're kids who will make stupid decisions. Does anyone know a kid who hasn't made one?

Last 4 paragraphs of article: A sign of truly shoddy reporting when one tries to make news out of what didn't happen. Keegan would be better suited for a gossip column. What's the latest on Jon and Kate???

jaywalker 8 years, 7 months ago

Didn't compare this incident to a fight between two frats, cato, just asked if expulsion would be called for in the same situation. It wouldn't and you know it. But your thinking is that because these young men are on tv a completely different set of standards should apply. Double standards aren't naive, but they are myopic. Punches that are thrown in games result in a one-game suspension. Fights break out on the football field every single year. Kicking someone out of school or off a team is an incredibly serious measure and way more 'justice' than is necessary. And what's naive is thinking this sort of thing doesn't go on all the time and at numerous universities.
Thinking expulsiion is called for here is ridiculous.

Jerry Collins 8 years, 7 months ago

Everytime Taylor goes on the court I will think of his comments on facebook. Just won't feel like cheering for him as before.

cato_the_elder 8 years, 7 months ago

Jaywalker, I don't think that you read my last comment. Expulsion is indeed an extreme punishment, but if the facts were truly egregious expulsion could be warranted. The point I made, however, was that if the people in charge were to start talking in those terms, then they might get some results. Until they do, it's obvious from what's been going on for over a year now that they won't.

somedude20 8 years, 7 months ago

I do not understand why "they" owe "us" an apology. They did nothing to the public maybe they should apologies to the coaches or to the teams but to a town, don't think so. It sounds like Mr. Keegan has some sour grapes because he did not get an interview.

jaywalker 8 years, 7 months ago

What's 'truly egregious'? Ya got two guys fightin' over a girl, and one guy hurt himself. Call out the militia! Threatening expulsion is an empty threat simply because it's not warranted. "You guys don't like each other 'cuz of a girl? Be nice or we kick you out of school."?! Sorry, cato, that's just plain way-over-the-top ridiculous. And I say again, this goes on all the time. Clashes between teams and athletes is not new nor will it ever be quashed, not without thorazine. You're mistaken in your belief that the 'threat' of dire consequences would eliminate such incidents. If that were true we wouldn't be housing 25% of the world's prison population.
At worst this warrants a one-game suspension but I reckon the coaches who actually have all the facts will mete out punishment correctly.

JimmyJoeBob 8 years, 7 months ago

A request for an interview of Tyshawn Taylor was not granted. The basketball players were shielded from interviews.

What Keegan doesn't understand is there is a thing called the 5th Ammendment and Taylor would be stupid to say more about this than he already has. How many battery suspects has Keegan requested to interview in the past and been granted an interview. I will bet not very many.

cato_the_elder 8 years, 7 months ago

Jaywalker, I didn't just fall off the turnip truck. It's now evident that this has been going on for a long time, that it has presented very serious potential negative consequences for KU's reputation, and that those in charge have failed, for whatever reason, to prevent its escalation even though it was openly obvious that a seriously damaging feud was going on. Again, the consequences should depend on the facts: If players were told, categorically, that this had to stop and that automatic suspensions or worse would follow if it didn't, then serious punishments are deserved. If, however, as I suspect, this has been continually tolerated with a wink and a nod, then the athletic administration is equally at fault. Assuming that to be the case, as I stated earlier, now is the time to make it crystal-clear that one more such incident will bring down the hammer. Period.

Dan Spurgin 8 years, 7 months ago

I understand many of us want the world to think KU bball & fball is great - and maybe we think quickly brushing this under the rug or downplaying its significance is best way to protect that image.

I'd argue that if you really want to protect KU's image AND these KU kids, you bring it out in the open. Making these say-nothing statements is NOT bringing it out in the open. When you got dirty laundry you either wash it (so you can wear clean clothes) or you hide at the bottom of some pile (aka "statement") until it reappears somewhere down the line - smellier than ever.

I'm w/ Keegan on this.

jayhawker4real 8 years, 7 months ago

I am also disappointed in the behavior of these young men, but not nearly as disappointed in them as I am in the Athletic Director. Everyone knows Lew is here to make the coffers swell, so we need to show him what happens when he turns a blind eye on this childish, and ungentlemanly, behavior in the extremely privileged young athletes that he provides with an avenue to pursue their talents and careers.

True Kansas fans should leave Memorial Stadium empty Saturday Sept 26th. I will keep my tickets in the bureau drawer and not attend. Will anyone join me?

We should also leave Allen Field House empty on Late Night, and not attend the first exhibition game either.

Perhaps that would help Lew Perkins gain the proper perspective on this incident and demand that those accountable for this scandal, yes, that is what he has allowed it to become, be held responsible.


Not harsh enough.

Scholarship revocations and expulsions?


Dan Spurgin 8 years, 7 months ago

BTW, I for 1 don't want KU to become the thug capital of the world. I'm sure some would be happy to endure this kind of fighting if it brings a championship but not me...

Nurturing a culture where fighting like this is NOT tolerated is more important to me than winning championships. Though in this case I think you can have your cake and eat it too.... you can win AND not fight your neighbors in the process

cthulhu_4_president 8 years, 7 months ago

"I will keep my tickets in the bureau drawer and not attend"

Where are your seats? If they're below row 30, then I'm there! Enjoy your proxy outrage.

Cartemus 8 years, 7 months ago

You got it right on the money, Tom. It's a shame that so many of my fellow KU fans can't see the reality of this situation through their crimson & blue glasses.

Gregory Newman 8 years, 7 months ago

come on you guys is this worse than our U.S. congress and senate? NO!! all campuses have this in cali we do guns and tedford does nothing. this is america there are no consequences anymore. we kicked god out of schools and can't pledge an allegience to the flag. its called social justice and it began from universities in the late 60's with foreign professors. it could have been worse lets move on.

Jock Navels 8 years, 7 months ago

what did he say...that last guy...whaaaa? i'm a nonviolent old guy who grew up, got a job, paid taxes, owns property and retired. in 1965, fall semester, freshman, i was in 3 in the gaslight with fort riley soldiers in town for a visit, one on the seventh floor of mccollum about some chicken being yellow sign in a window and one in the hall of the student union down by the hawk's nest because i had a chairman mao hat on. so lets drop it. they aren't thugs. they're good kids.

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