Cincinnati players apologize for brawl with Xavier
CINCINNATI—Suspended Cincinnati forward Yancy Gates apologized to everyone, from his family to his entire hometown, for throwing punches that left much more than just a bloody gash below the eye of a Xavier player.
Then, he wept.
The Bearcats made their four suspended players attend a news conference on Monday and apologize for their part in a brawl that ended eighth-ranked Xavier's 76-53 victory on Saturday and brought the city a lot of bad national publicity.
No one was shown in the replays more than Gates, a 6-foot-9, 260-pound player who flattened Xavier's Kenny Frease with a blindside punch. Frease got a cut below the left eye and fell to the court, where he was kicked by another Cincinnati player.
"I'm just not that type of person," Gates said, his eyes tearing. "A lot of people have been calling me a thug, a gangster ..."
Gates then lowered his head and wiped away tears before covering his eyes with his black and red warmup shirt and crying.
The public apologies were the latest step in both schools' attempt to repair their images and their rivalry, which has always had an edge but never spilled over into a brawl until Saturday at Xavier's Cintas Center.
With 9.4 seconds left, Xavier senior guard Tu Holloway taunted Cincinnati's bench, upset that one Bearcat player had made disparaging remarks about him leading up to the game. The words led to shoves, Gates threw the basketball at Holloway and the free-for-all erupted.
Four players from each team have been suspended. Cincinnati gave six-game penalties to Yates, starting center Cheikh Mbodj and freshman forward Octavius Ellis for joining in the brawl. Freshman guard Ge'Lawn Guyn was suspended for one game for his exchange with Holloway at the start of the confrontation.
Xavier suspended Holloway for one game, starting guard Mark Lyons for two, and starting forward Dez Wells and reserve Landen Amos for four games each. Holloway apologized on Sunday for instigating the brawl with his trash talking.
Gates, who grew up in Cincinnati, thought he might get kicked off the team for his flurry of punches that hit at least two Xavier players in the face. He spent Saturday night watching television replays of the fight and fearing it would be the end of his career.
"It looks bad, it was bad," he said. "The whole situation was bad. That's the only thing that kept going through my mind, that it might be over, a lot of people won't want me playing. I just had to sit back and wait and see what was going to happen.
"They kept showing it (on television), which made it worse and worse."
Coach Mick Cronin said Monday that the suspended players will get anger-management counseling and do some form of community service as part of their punishment.
The local prosecutor said in a statement on Monday that he would determine whether any criminal charges are appropriate, but declined further comment.
"Anything we're asked to do, we will comply with," Cronin said. "Whatever they feel they need to do, we understand."
The future of the annual rivalry game is in question. It's developed a nasty edge, with a lot of buildup to the game in the media and the community. The raw moments from previous games get replayed and rehashed in the days leading up to the game.
On Sunday, Xavier athletics director Mike Bobinski said the series should continue, with the schools turning it into "a celebration of the Division I basketball that's played in the city of Cincinnati and not the Hatfield and McCoy event that it's turned into over the years."
Cincinnati athletics director Whit Babcock said on Monday that he's unsure whether there will be another game. He said the series should continue only if they can "change the culture of the game."
Immediately after the game, Cronin said the officials shared some of the blame for declining to hand out technical fouls as the trash talking escalated during the game. Cronin said he urged the officials -- none of whom had worked a crosstown rivalry game -- to clamp down.
Officials Michael Roberts, Jeff Anderson and Tony Crisp called one technical foul, on Xavier coach Chris Mack for objecting to a goal-tending call.
Cronin said on Monday that the officials didn't understand what they were getting into when they agreed to work the emotional game. He blamed the teams for what happened.
"If we're not going to take the floor against each other in an appropriate manner, then there's no point in taking the floor," Cronin said. "It puts people in a bad situation, and I'm going to defend these three officials. They were put in a bad situation."
Associated Press writer Dan Sewell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.