LAWRENCE, Kan. — The Sunflower Showdown became a national story as basketball fans across the country tried to make sense of the brawl that took place between Kansas and Kansas State players Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
The incident was replayed throughout the Wednesday news cycle, sparking opinions on what transpired and what punishments should be given.
Kansas junior forward Silvio De Sousa received the first penalty associated with the brawl when Jayhawks coach Bill Self suspended him indefinitely for his actions in the melee, which involved multiple players from both teams spilling into the seating area for persons with disabilities behind the arena’s south goal post.
“I have suspended Silvio De Sousa indefinitely pending the final outcome of the review by KU and the Big 12 Conference,” Self said in a statement Wednesday. “As I said last night, we are disappointed in his actions and there is no place in the game for that behavior.”
The Big 12 made its decision later Wednesday, suspending De Sousa 12 games and his teammate David McCormack two games. Kansas State’s James Love was suspended for eight games and Antonio Gordon for three.
If De Sousa returns after the 12 game suspension, he would miss the Kansas-Kansas State game in Manhattan on Feb. 29 and the Jayhawks’ home finale March 4 against TCU, and appear in the season finale March 7 at Texas Tech.
“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.”
K-State coach Bruce Weber and Self said their schools worked with the league office to evaluate what transpired during the brawl and agree on proper discipline for the involved players.
“We do not condone this type of behavior in any circumstance and fully support Commissioner Bowlsby’s decision on this matter,” K-State athletic director Gene Taylor said.
De Sousa was the first player punished on Wednesday in part because he was at the center of the brawl, throwing punches and then briefly lifting a stool above his head and looking as though he was going to swing it.
But it was an ugly scene for everyone involved.
“Last night’s incident is not good for K-State, not good for Kansas, not good for college basketball,” Weber said. “It’s disappointing. Obviously, there are many people to blame. I am the head of our program and it falls back on me. It’s a shame. It shouldn’t have happened.”
Here’s how it started: K-State freshman DaJuan Gordon stole the ball from De Sousa as he crossed mid court and attempted to dribble out the final seconds of what would be an 81-60 victory for the Jayhawks. Once Gordon secured the ball, he took off for the basket in hopes of making a layup for the Wildcats before the buzzer. But De Sousa hustled after Gordon, blocked his attempt into the stands and then taunted Gordon by towering over him and sharing a few words.
Players from both teams left their benches and converged under the basket as De Sousa stood over Gordon. Then a fight broke out. It didn’t last long, but long enough to completely overshadow the game that preceded it and turn an in-state rivalry into a viral video.
KU athletic director Jeff Long said “the conduct of a few of our student-athletes at the conclusion of (Tuesday’s) game vs. Kansas State was simply unacceptable and not reflective of who we are,” before adding “there is no place for this conduct in college athletics or here at KU.”
Replays of the brawl show the fight began in earnest when K-State forward Antonio Gordon left the bench and shoved De Sousa. That led to De Sousa throwing punches at K-State guard David Sloan, who was standing next to Antonio Gordon.
While those three went back and forth, injured K-State forward Love jumped into the skirmish and things got out of control. De Sousa threw punches at Love and Love swung his arms at De Sousa until he fell forward into the disabled seating area and crawled away from the skirmish. KU forward McCormack also grabbed a few K-State players and followed Love off the court.
According to K-State, Love’s suspension will not start until he is medically cleared to play.
It was at about that time that things turned even worse. That’s when De Sousa lifted a stool over his head before coaches intervened and the teams were separated.
Pictures of De Sousa holding the stool above his head created an infamous image of the fight that may live on for years.
“Obviously it’s an embarrassment. It’s not something that you’d be proud of,” Self said. “If this is what happens, it’s actually not a sign of toughness. It’s a sign of immaturity, selfishness, more than it is toughness. So if I was a fan watching, obviously, depending on what your perspective is, there would be nothing about that that would intrigue me to want to watch more, at least from what happened.”
Self said Wednesday he did not know if any fans seated in the disabled section were injured.
“I actually did speak with one of the persons that 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 … see how she is feeling,” he said. “I do not know basically everything that transpired.”
Some compared the incident to the “Malice at the Palace” NBA brawl between the Detroit Pistons and the Indianapolis Pacers that spilled into the stands in 2004. Others suggested it was closer to the nasty Cincinnati/Xavier college basketball fight from 2011. Four players from each team were suspended after that fight, with the longest suspension being six games.
One vocal person to speak out against the brawl was ESPN college basketball commentator Dick Vitale.
“It’s absolutely sickening and unbelievable,” Vitale said on a televised interview. “In the 40 years I have been on TV I have never seen anything like it unless you go to the NBA and you look at the Pistons brawl that took place at the Palace. There is no doubt in my mind that De Sousa never ever should put a uniform on again in college basketball. None.
“He is holding a chair. I mean, that is criminal. He is going to hurt somebody. I don’t want to hear any excuse that they stole the ball with time running out, never should have done such. Give me a break. That was ugly.”
Fran Fraschilla was another. The Big 12 basketball analyst said on ESPN following the game that De Sousa deserved to be suspended for the remainder of the season.