How college basketball moves on from the Kansas-Kansas State brawl

When you want an opinion or judgment that is absolutely meaningless, consider our opinions on an official’s call in a basketball game. We can moan and complain all we want, and we can use video replay to make our case that an official’s call was correct or incorrect. Yet it doesn’t matter. The official’s call always stands and cannot be changed, no matter how right and righteous we outsiders believe we are.

What matters in an official’s call are two things: the rule as written and the official’s interpretation and enforcement of the rule. Right or wrong, the official’s call is the law of the court and cannot be changed or challenged. The rule governs, and the official enforces the rule. It can only be opined upon, criticized or agreed with by outsiders.

The same is true with regard to a fight in a basketball game. A fight might offend our sensibilities and draw our ire, but the ultimate decisions regarding the actions of those involved in a fight rest with the on-court rules, the officials on the floor, the conference and the schools. The rest of us can have our opinions, but our opinions don’t matter.

Fights are governed by Rule 10 of the NCAA’s basketball rules of play. If a player is deemed to have participated in a fight, he is ejected from that game and suspended for the next game. Essentially, that is a one-game penalty. The rules actually contemplate a player being involved in more than one fight during a season. Rule 10 states that a player will be suspended for the season if he is deemed to have participated in a second fight in the same season. That is instructive.

The rules also cover leaving the bench during a fight. The only person who is allowed to leave the bench during a fight is the head coach. Any player or assistant coach who leaves the bench during a fight is subject to ejection. The rules do not mandate a suspension for leaving the bench.

Those rules were on display Tuesday night during an ugly brawl in the Kansas State-Kansas game at Allen Fieldhouse. The game was over, with Kansas leading by over 20 points and only deep bench players and walk-ons on the floor. It was “garbage time.” As Silvio De Sousa crossed half court with the ball, Kansas was set to run the clock out. Instead of simply allowing Kansas to run the clock out and end the game, DaJuan Gordon stole the ball from De Sousa and sprinted with the ball to the other end to score. That was unnecessary.

De Sousa, who lost the ball to Gordon, sprinted down the floor and blocked Gordon’s shot. That was unnecessary.

After the blocked shot, with the clock at 0:00 and the game literally over, De Sousa stood over Gordon, who had fallen to the floor, and taunted him. That was wholly unnecessary.

But none of that unnecessary stuff was a fight. It contributed to an atmosphere where a fight might break out, but none of it was a fight.

The fight started when Kansas State players, led by Antonio Gordon and James Love III, left the Kansas State bench and physically went after De Sousa on the baseline. De Sousa was knocked down, and the fight began. Kansas players entered the fray, at least one, David McCormack, to participate in the fight, others to break it up. Both head coaches and assistants were trying to break up the fight. The officials put themselves in harm’s way to break up the fight. Punches were thrown. De Sousa picked up a stool and held it over his head before dropping it behind him. It was an ugly mess, and it was totally unacceptable.

The officials went to the monitor to determine which players participated in the fight and who had left the bench. De Sousa, McCormack, Antonio Gordon and Love were all deemed to have participated in the fight, and everyone else was deemed to have left the bench. The officials then put time back on the clock, brought the head coaches and players on the floor at the end of the game (minus those who had been ejected) and had those players inbound the ball and finish the game. While the rules might call for that or allow it, it was a ridiculous sight after such an ugly, disgusting brawl. It was unnecessary.

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