Illini Head Coach Calls Big Ten Suspension Of Griffin 'Excessive'
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Brad Underwood isn’t happy with the Big Ten Conference commissioner or the league’s punishment for his player.
After the Big Ten Conference announced Thursday night that sophomore guard Alan Griffin will be suspended two games by league officials, the third-year Illini head coach released a statement expressing his displeasure with the folks in the conference office.
“Alan Griffin is a great young man, and I remain proud of him as a person and as a member of our team. He is a 19-year-old student-athlete who made a mistake – a mistake we don’t condone and that reflects negatively on our program,” Underwood’s written statement reads. “He showed poor judgment in a moment of emotion and has been remorseful from the outset, meeting with Sasha Stefanovic after the game to apologize and following with a public apology to Sasha, Coach Painter, and the Purdue team. He was ejected from the contest and essentially missed the entire game as a consequence of his actions. I am proud of Alan’s accountability, response, and growth from this experience. I feel the further penalty of a two-game suspension is excessive and am disappointed in the timing. But I respect the Big Ten’s decision and am moving on. We will continue to support Alan and help him learn from this situation.”
Griffin was suspended for his actions Tuesday night resulting in an ejection at Purdue. The release sent out by the Big Ten Conference stated the guard violated the Big Ten Sportsmanship Policy.
“After a thoughtful and thorough review of this incident, we are all extremely fortunate this did not create a hostile and unsafe environment for the players, coaches, game officials and fans," said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren in a statement. "It is important for me to emphasize and make it crystal clear that such behavior will not be tolerated, period. We place the utmost importance on the safety and well-being of our players, coaches, game officials and fans. The situation provides a teachable moment for all parties involved, especially our student-athletes as they use their time in the Big Ten to grow as individuals both on and off the field of competition.”
Following a contested layup by Purdue guard Sasha Stefanovic, Griffin intentionally stepped on the Purdue player with his left foot while he was laying on the ground. With 12 minutes and 18 seconds left in the first half Tuesday night at Purdue, game officials called for an early media timeout to head to the monitor to assess the play. Before the end of the timeout, Griffin was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul, which calls for immediate ejection from the game.
The ruling came on Griffin more than a day before No. 21 Illini (14-5, 6-2 in Big Ten) travels to play at Michigan on Saturday afternoon (11 a.m., FS1). The sophomore guard, who is averaging 8.4 points per game this season, will also be inactive when Illinois hosts Minnesota on Jan. 30.
According to conference rules, the Sportsmanship Policy states in part that “The Big Ten Conference expects all contests involving a member institution to be conducted without compromise to any fundamental element of sportsmanship. Such fundamental elements include integrity of the competition, civility toward all, and respect, particularly toward opponents and officials.”
Griffin's ejection was his second ejection of the 2019-20 season with his first coming at the end of the Braggin' Rights Game loss to Missouri on Dec. 21 in St. Louis when Griffin got two separate technical fouls in the second half.
Griffin issued a statement of apology Wednesday night.
"I sincerely apologize for my actions toward Saha Stefanovic during last night's game," Griffin's statement reads. "What happened was out of character and does not reflect who I am as a person."