Players involved in an end-of-game melee in Tuesday’s Sunflower Showdown are paying the price.
In a release from the Big 12 Conference Wednesday evening, the league announced suspensions for four players, two from each team: Kansas’ Silvio De Sousa and David McCormack and Kansas State’s James Love and Antonio Gordon.
De Sousa will serve the longest suspension, sitting 12 games. Prior to the conference’s announcement, Kansas head coach Bill Self had indefinitely suspended De Sousa earlier Wednesday.
Love, who is injured and hasn’t appeared in a game for the Wildcats this season, has an eight-game suspension that will begin once he is medically cleared for competition.
Gordon is suspended three games; his suspension will start immediately, meaning he will miss Saturday’s game at Alabama and the following two contests against Oklahoma (Wednesday) and at West Virginia (Feb. 1). McCormack earned a two-game suspension from the conference.
The league also reprimanded both programs for violations of the Big 12’s sportsmanship policies as a result of players from both teams leaving the bench area during the incident.
“This kind of behavior cannot be tolerated and these suspensions reflect the severity of last evening’s events,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “I am appreciative of the cooperation of both institutions in resolving this matter.”
Per a release from K-State’s athletics department, Love and Gordon are immediately prohibited from traveling with the team to away games, participating in pregame activities or being in the team’s bench area. The pair is, however, allowed to continue practicing with the team as well as receiving “related support incidental to their participation as a student-athlete.”
K-State head coach Bruce Weber reiterated his dismay at the events that occurred, echoing his words following Tuesday’s game.
“I’m extremely disappointed in our team’s actions in the aftermath of last night’s game at Kansas,” Weber said Wednesday. “They do not reflect what our program is about here at K-State. Our team will live with the consequences of those actions and move forward in a positive manner. Our focus going forward is to help our players learn from this situation and ensure that it never happens again.”
K-State athletics director Gene Taylor said that the department did “not condone this type of behavior” and that it fully supported the punishment Bowlsby doled out.
“There is no place for this type of conduct in the game of basketball, or any sport, and in particular this great rivalry,” Taylor said. “In addition, I would like to offer my appreciation to (KU athletics director) Jeff Long and the University of Kansas administration and event staff for their efforts in resolving the situation.”
Self echoed the parties in Manhattan, saying that himself, Long and chancellor Douglas Girod were on board with the conference’s decision and appreciated the league’s “commitment to working through this situation” as it unfolded.
“Like I said (Tuesday) night, I am disappointed and embarrassed by what transpired,” Self said, “because there is no place for that type of behavior in any competition.”
It started after K-State freshman DaJuan Gordon poked the ball away from De Sousa with under 10 seconds remaining during Tuesday’s game at Allen Fieldhouse. De Sousa chased down and blocked Gordon’s layup attempt. He then towered over Gordon, leading both teams’ benches to clear.
K-State’s Antonio Gordon shoved De Sousa, who then swung at K-State guard David Sloan. Love joined the fray and exchanged punches with De Sousa as the KU forward fell into seating behind the basket. De Sousa picked up a stool and appeared ready to swing it before he dropped it. Members of the two teams’ coaching staffs as well as security workers finally intervened to break up the fight.
But not before the brawl went viral on social media, symbolized by the images and video of De Sousa holding the stool above his head.
Following Wednesday’s suspension, De Sousa posted a long note to his personal Twitter account, writing that he “displayed highly unacceptable behavior that was a poor representation of my team as well as my own character” at the end of what was an 81-60 victory for the No. 3 Jayhawks.
“There is no excuse for my behavior, and I cannot justify the unreasonable choices that I made (Tuesday) on the court,” he wrote. “I not only showed a lack of sportsmanship, but I put myself, my teammates and the fans in danger. I am truly embarrassed by my actions and have let everyone down who has supported me on my basketball journey. There is no amount of regret that I can express that will correct this mistake.
“I understand that I am extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to play for KU and I recognize that I never should have let my emotions get the best of me, but unfortunately, that is what happened. By doing so, I put the Kansas reputation at stake because of a moment of weakness and inconsideration. I have always been so grateful for the faith that you all have shown towards me during the last year. I have been so lucky to have experienced unwavering love and support from not only my family, but the University of Kansas and basketball community.”
De Sousa closed by noting that KU had “fought for me when nobody else did,” referring to the long process for him to gain eligibility to begin his college career.
“I am eternally grateful,” he wrote. “It destroys me to think that my actions (Tuesday) overshadowed everything that we have overcome together. I will continue to support my team and do everything I can to help while serving my suspension. I messed up and I am sorry.”
Following the game, Self called the brawl “an embarrassment” for college basketball.
“It’s not something you’d be proud of. It (shows) absolutely zero signs of toughness,” he said. It’s a sign of immaturity and selfishness more so than it is toughness. So if I was a fan watching ... there would be nothing about that that would intrigue me to want to watch more, at least from what happened tonight. I don’t see anything positive.”
Arguably the worst aspect of the melee, in Self’s mind, is that it spilled into an area reserved for handicapped fans, saying it’s “ridiculous to go into the stands.”
Self said Wednesday he is unsure if any fans were injured as a result of the brawl.
“I actually did speak with one of the persons (who) was there at the time and was hit — not hit physically, but backed into or whatever, to the point where I’m sure we’ll correspond with her (and) see how she is feeling,” Self said. “I do not know everything that transpired.”