Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mick Cronin looked as bad today as he looked good yesterday

Mick Cronin won yesterday.

In the face of an embarrassing and brutal brawl that left Xavier's Kenny Frease bloodied and was played on loop on Sportscenter all night, Cronin made a strong, strong statement after the game.

"My players don’t act the right way they will never play another game at Cincinnati," Cronin said. "Right now, I just told my guys, I will meet with my AD and my president and I’m going to decide who is on the team going forward. That is what the University of Cincinnati is about. Period."

"I’ve never been this embarrassed. I’m hoping President Williams doesn’t ask me to resign after that. We represent an institution of higher learning, it’s way more important than basketball games. Whoever puts that jersey back on – I made everybody take their jersey off and they will not put it on again until they have a full understanding of where they go to school and what the university stands for and how lucky they are to even be there, let alone have a scholarship, because there’s a whole lot of kids that can’t pay for college. And don’t get to go to school. My mom didn’t get to go to UC, she grew up on campus. They couldn’t afford it."

"They are all sitting in there with no jersey on. Some of them I physically took them off."

He said plenty more.

All good. Great, in fact. The only problem is that he didn't back those words up.

Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj and Octavious Ellis were all suspended for six games by Cronin. Ge'Lawn Guyn got a one-game suspension. Gates and Mbodj make up the starting front court for the Bearcats. They'll miss one Big East game.

Think about that. Gates punched two Xavier players in the face. One of them was a sucker punch that bloodied Frease's face and forced his eye to swell to the point that he couldn't open it. After Frease dropped to the ground when Gates punched him, Mbodj stomped on the back of his head. Literally. Stomped on a defenseless player's head after his teammate sucker-punched him.

And they'll miss a single Big East game.

Mick, with all due respect, that's utterly hypocritical. We all saw the fight. We all saw your statement in the press conference. By allowing the players that reignited the Bearcat nicknames of old -- Sincinnati, Concinnati -- to remain on your team, you look spineless. You look no different that any other coach, strictly concerned with your team's win-loss record.

Now let me be clear -- I'm not as appalled by this fight as the rest of the media. This is the most heated rivalry in the country. There is no love lost between these two programs. Every season, this game has a handful of dust-ups and technicals and plenty of jawing and posturing. That's what makes the games so much fun to watch. A fight like that has always been a risk. That kind of blow-up comes with the territory when you play a game like this. Its unacceptable, but its an occupational hazard, so to speak.

And Cronin's effort to get his players out into the community to try and explain to the younger fans that were watching the game why their actions were wrong is a good move. I'm sure that there are people in the community and members of the Bearcat fanbase that were turned off by this brawl. Cincinnati's roster is made up of young, muscle-bound black men covered in tattoos. It would be really easy for them to write these players off as "thugs". By getting the team out to apologize, he personalizes the situation.

He lets the fans see that the players on his roster are kids that made a really, really dumb decision.

But the bottom line is this: six games probably isn't enough given the behavior of his players yesterday. When combined with the comments that he made after the game, suspending these players for a single Big East game makes him seem spineless and solely concerned about winning.

All the credit he earned from a PR standpoint with his postgame comments yesterday he lost when these suspensions were announced.

"My players don’t act the right way they will never play another game at Cincinnati."

Your words, not mine, Mick.

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