The Kansas Jayhawks extended their national lead in bad optics Tuesday night. Will the university choose to do something about it this time?
There was Silvio De Sousa, of all players, holding a stool over his head, ready to commit assault and battery amid an astonishing brawl at the end of a blowout of rival Kansas State. Someone intervened, grabbing it out of his hands, and he was stopped short of potentially doing grievous harm to someone. But the image will be the most indelible in a string of embarrassing ones for a blueblood program.
The Bill Self texts with Adidas bag man T.J. Gassnola. The school's wrapping itself in victim status, claiming Adidas had defrauded it, then agreeing to a $196 million new contract with the shoe and apparel company. The Snoop Dogg money cannon and stripper poles.
Now this. Now De Sousa, whose eligibility was surprisingly restored upon appeal of NCAA sanctions before the season after being implicated in the federal investigation of college basketball, blew that second chance in favor of thrown punches and a raised weapon in the scariest basketball scene in many years. De Sousa might have been a pawn in a corruption scheme years ago, but he can’t claim any naïveté here.
He also had plenty of company.
Kansas hasn’t owned much of anything since September 2017, when the corruption scandal erupted in college hoops. But it will have to own this.
“That’s an embarrassment on our part,” Self said afterward. “... There will be consequences.”
There should be for Kansas State as well. It takes two teams to tango in a melee, and the Wildcats were willing pugilists. The whole thing was an embarrassment to a great basketball rivalry.
Louisville and Kentucky hate each other, but they don’t do that. Duke and North Carolina hate each other, but they don’t do that. Same with Purdue and Indiana, Auburn and Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan.
But the Wildcats certainly carry less baggage into this fiasco than the Jayhawks. The cumulative effect never seems to catch up to coach Bill Self, who has won enough to buy himself a seemingly bottomless reservoir of leeway with his administration.
If the schools punt discipline in this one, the Big 12 needs to drop the hammer. It will take a while to unwind all the video and make clear decisions, but they need to be forceful decisions. No wrist slaps. No “expedience” looking ahead at potential competitive disadvantages.
The conference should think what the reputational damage is from the image of De Sousa looking to take a weapon down on someone. And all the other combatants as well.
Do they need to play again this season? If so, why?
David Stern dropped the hammer on several players—most notably Ron Artest—after the Malice in the Palace. This isn’t quite as bad as that, but it might be the most flagrant basketball fight since then.
Plenty of innocent fans and bystanders were put in harm’s way. That has to be taken into consideration.
The sad thing for college basketball is that an unrestrained brawl just became the most memorable moment of a muddled season. No super teams, no superstars—but hey, here’s a super melee. The rest of the sport should be mad at Kansas and Kansas State, too.
Silvio De Sousa's, of all people, wielding a stool as a weapon in a brawl pretty well speaks to the state of the game right now. It’s a sad statement.