OVC suspends 3 for roles in brawl

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Three other players were already suspended under NCAA rules.

The Associated Press

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. -- The Ohio Valley Conference suspended both coaches and one player for a game each for their roles in a benches-clearing brawl between Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee State.

Interim commissioner Ron English said Wednesday the one-game penalty was appropriate after reviewing videotape of the Monday incident that ejected 19 players.

"This situation did not include wild swinging, punching and kicking by multiple players. There were a few select punches thrown, and the game officials were able to identify those individuals involved, and took the appropriate action," English said.

He suspended Eastern Kentucky coach Travis Ford and Tennessee State interim coach Hosea Lewis for a game for violating the league's sportsmanship rule that prohibits players from leaving the bench.

English also suspended Josh Cooperwood of Tennessee State for one game. Cedric Bryson of Tennessee State and Champ Slaughter and Kenyatta Dix of Eastern Kentucky are suspended for one game under NCAA rules because they were ejected for fighting.

Ford already has suspended Sherard Rogers for throwing some mini-basketballs at players.

Tennessee State athletic director Teresa Phillips anticipated the suspension Tuesday by deciding to fill in for Lewis for tonight's game against Austin Peay. She will become the first woman to coach a men's Division I college basketball team when the Tigers visit the Governors in Clarksville, Tenn..

The trouble started with 8:13 left when Bryson and Eastern Kentucky's Shawn Fields started elbowing and bumping each other under the basket.

Officials stopped play and ejected both players for flagrant technical fouls. Videotape showed that Cooperwood put his arm around the neck of an Eastern Kentucky player and pulled backward, prompting players from both benches to run onto the court.

English did not further punish the other players who left their benches. Videotape showed those players did not fight and either stood alone or held one another.

Referees continued the game, even though only four players remained for each team. When Tennessee State's Jeremy Jackson fouled out with 5:24 remaining, the teams went 4-on-3, and Eastern Kentucky won 89-72.

"We regret and apologize to our university and to our fans for lack of sideline control of our basketball team and unsportsmanlike behavior," said Jack Lengyel, EKU's interim athletic director.

"Any further action by our coaches or teams will result in immediate suspension," he said. "At Eastern Kentucky University, we take great pride in our commitment to good sportsmanship, and we will not tolerate those that do not."

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