Tuesday, February 15, 2011

MEAC women's hoops - let's get ready to rumble?

At the rate things are going, they won't need a basketball court to contest next month's MEAC women's basketball tournament.

They'll need a boxing ring.

For the second time in less than three weeks, a fight between players broke out at one of the league's games. On Monday, players from Bethune-Cookman and Maryland-Eastern Shore went at it with 16:22 remaining in the second half. The altercation was so extensive the entire game was suspended.

At least Coppin State and North Carolina A&T finished the game three weeks ago. But moments after the postgame handshake, the players squared off in a series of fights that spread all over the court and left blood on the floor.

That it happened once is disgraceful enough. But twice in 17 days? And remember, all of these teams, or shall we say, combatants, will be in the same building beginning March 8 when the MEAC Tournament commences in Winston-Salem, N.C.

No doubt the individual schools  have and will mete out discipline internally. But the league needs to get out in front of this quickly, too - and publicly. Virtually no news media covers these games, so unfortunately, these fights are how MEAC women's basketball is getting exposed to the world. As you're reading this, ESPN is running a continuous crawl at the bottom of "SportsCenter" about Monday night's brawl. For the vast majority of viewers, that news represents everything they know about MEAC women's hoops in 2010-11.

As for what the league's next move should be, suspensions are obvious, but let's make them meaty. How about 12 months for anyone involved in a fight? Further, how about a mandatory all-players seminar on sportsmanship and the dangers of fighting in Winston-Salem prior to the tournament? The MEAC should fly in Kermit Washington to be the keynote speaker. If anyone can talk about the long-term damage one on-court punch can inflict not just on the punchee but on the puncher, it's Kermit.

Heck, we wouldn't even rule out making the players hold hands and sing "Kumbaya" before - and after - every game. Given what's happened, the MEAC needs to go overboard in making the statement that fighting isn't what its games are all about - and never will be again.

By the way, Bethune-Cookman, or what's left of Bethune-Cookman, is scheduled to visit Hampton Saturday. Last month, the Wildcats handed the Lady Pirates their only MEAC loss. Now, with suspensions surely forthcoming, they may be down to just their cheerleaders.

UPDATE: MEAC officials said Tuesday they are reviewing Monday's altercation between players during the Bethune-Cookman/Maryland-Eastern Shore game. "This is an extremely unfortunate incident to occur and we will execute a complete review to determine the necessary course of action," said MEAC Commissioner Dennis Thomas. "For the welfare of all of our student-athletes, coaches and fans it is imperative that all participants exhibit good sportsmanship before, during and after all athletic events.  It is regretful that the student-athletes involved in this situation did not follow that policy." An official statement will be announced following the review of the video footage of the altercation as well as statements from the game's officials, neutral observer, coaching and athletic staffs and student-athletes.

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