What was otherwise a pretty outstanding weekend for college basketball was shrouded by what happened when Xavier and Cincinnati met up in a crosstown rivalry meeting. Late in the game, with the Muskateers leading the Bearcats comfortably, got into a brawl that included Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates throwing a punch that knocked down Kenny Frease.
Three Cincinnati players — Gates, Cheikh Mbodj and Octavius Ellis — were suspended by the university for six games apiece, while freshman Ge’Lawn Guyn was handed a one game suspension. Coach Mick Cronin, who was obviously extremely disappointment in the players, said that all will have to learn their way back onto the team once their suspensions are served. Many have come out and said Gates’ suspension isn’t long enough, but athletic director Whit Babcock defends the decision in the following interview.
Whit Babock joined 1530 Homer in Cincinnati with Mo Egger and Artrell Hawkins to discuss how they arrived at the suspension lengths, why Gates wasn’t suspended longer, what the players might need to do for Cronin to let them back on the team, how Cronin handled the team and the embarrassing situation, and the rivalry between Cincinnati and Xavier going forward.
Tell us how you arrived at the suspensions and their lengths:
“We came in immediately after the game and reviewed a lot of film to see the guys with the inexcusable behavior. Then we processed things and visited with the Big East Conference trying to find some precedence there. We talked to the head officials … about Yancy, and he said in four years, none of their officiating crews had an incident with Yancy. We considered everything from the mandatory one-game suspension to suspending players and kicking them off the team. Really we just looked for precedence out there and got guidance from a number of people and actually took our number higher than that. … We came up with the number of six.”
Why wasn’t the suspension for Yancy Gates a little bit longer?:
“I think that you’re certainly entitled to that [opinion] and I’m not here to debate it. I can just say that our decision had absolutely nothing to do with a win-loss record or what games are going to be there or selling tickets or anything like that. Those things never came up. … We were operating a bit without a road map. … The numbers that we were getting from other people, we simply wanted to exceed that. There was no scientific method to it. … No matter how many games that we have suspension, it doesn’t take back the punches, it doesn’t take back the embarrassment. I’d just like to apologize to all the UC fans in the community. It’s a tough day and we let a lot of people down.”
Mick Cronin talked about the players involved having to earn their spot back on the team. What might that entail?:
“That’s a good question and I don’t know the full answer to it. I believe that’s more of Mick internally. I think he wants to see how the guys respond to it, everything from academically to their attitude in practice to them being sincere and genuine in their apologies. … I appreciate how Coach Cronin handled it after the game and how he’s handled it moving forward.”
Would you have liked to see him accept more blame and do less finger-pointing after the incident?:
“As far as ownership or taking responsibility, if we haven’t, we should take it all. This is on us. I use a term called the Bearcat Family. If we’re all in it together when times are good, then we’re all in it when times are bad. At least from the clips I saw of Coach Cronin, I thought he represented UC very well in a difficult environment. But we’re all embarrassed.”
What are your thoughts on the rivalry with Xavier going forward and how we avoid this again?:
“It was my first one going to it. Nothing that I say here can make up for what happened on the court there. … But I think some of the legend of the game, when people were describing the game to me, about it being intense, and then they went to talking about the fighting in the old days. … I think we’ve got to change the culture of that. I think it’s got to be more of a celebration of Cincinnati basketball because it’s a heckuva basketball town. I’m not sitting here today calling for it to stop, but I think there’s some merit in looking at that. If the game continues, obviously I think we need to have a good strategy on that going forward.”
Listen to Whit Babcock on 1530 Homer in Cincinnati here (Interview begins at 16:10)