By Sam Zuba-
(CBS) There’s no place for gangsters in sports.
Gangsters belong in prison, or sleeping under some bridge, planning their next attack against a rival who wore the wrong color.
They certainly don’t belong on a college campus, put on a national stage because they can play basketball.
Enter, the University of Cincinnati and Xavier.
These two Cincinnati-based rival schools squared off Saturday night for a crosstown matchup that ignited one of the most embarrassing brawls in the history of college basketball.
It started with just under 20 seconds to play as Xavier led by more than 20 points. After hitting a layup, Xavier’s Tu Holloway began yelling at the Cincinnati bench because he felt “disrespected” by a comment made earlier in the week.
The taunting brought forth a bench-clearing brawl that saw more punches thrown than diplomas that will be earned by those involved in the melee.
Xavier center Kenny Frease ultimately left the court with blood dripping from his face after taking a punch from Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates. As he was knocked to the ground, Cincinnati’s Cheikh Mbodj decided to one-up his felon teammate and kicked Frease in the head.
The game was called with 9.4 seconds left
“That’s what you gonna see from Xavier and Cincinnati,” Holloway said after the game. “We got disrespected before the game with guys calling us out. We’re a tougher team. We’re grown men over here. We got a whole bunch of gangsters in the locker room — not thugs, but tough guys on the court.”
Let that statement sink in for a minute…
Holloway, you took the words right out of my mouth.
You’re right. You do have a bunch of gangsters in your locker room. The only difference between you and the gangsters sleeping under the bridge is the fact that somebody noticed you could bounce a basketball and decided to pay for you to go to school because of it.
You’re not a grown man. You’re a child, and a pathetic one at that.
What took place Saturday night was embarrassing for everyone who was subjected to it. The consequences of this brawl need to be far-reaching and truly punish those involved. Gates and Mbodj need to be done for the season, their scholarships withheld. Holloway, too.
I don’t care if Xavier is the eight-ranked team in the country. The Big East and Atlantic 10 need to do what is right here.
Get the gangsters off the court and let someone play who deserves to be there. Give that scholarship money to someone who deserves it — someone who can act like an adult.
Fortunately, Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin seems to get it.
“If my players don’t act the right way, they’ll never play another game at Cincinnati,” Cronin said. “Right now, I just told my guys that I will decide — I will meet with my AD and my president and I’m going to decide who is on the team going forward. That’s what the university of Cincinnati is about. Period. I’ve neve been this embarrased.
“We represent an institution of higher learning. It’s way more important than basketball games. I made everybody take their jersey off, and they will not put it on again until they have a full understanding of where they go to school and what the university stands for and how lucky they are to even be there, let alone have a scholarship.”
Live by your words, Mick. Please, be one of the few coaches in this world that puts class and character ahead of winning.
Get the thugs off the court.
Follow Sam on Twitter at @SamZuba