Commissioner Dave Gavitt of the Big East Conference sent a two-page letter to conference athletic directors and basketball coaches this week in which he detailed numerous improvements that he said should be made in managing conference games, including increased reaction to fans who exhibit derogatory signs.
Gavitt said yesterday that the signs that fans have raised at recent Big East games, belittling Patrick Ewing, Georgetown's 7-foot sophomore center, served as an impetus to his letter. "That was certainly a key part," Gavitt said.
In the last month, fans at Providence, R.I., and the Palestra in Philadelphia held up signs during Georgetown games that read, "Ewing Can't Read" and "Ewing Is An Ape."
"I think it is despicable that any player or coach has to be subjected to those kinds of signs," Gavitt said.
"The people responsible (for crowd control) at the arena have to be more alert to these things. Beyond that, we want security people and ushers to be more vigilant. Whether the signs are about Patrick Ewing, Villanova University or (Providence Coach) Joe Mullaney, no one should be subjected to them."
Coach John Thompson of Georgetown said yesterday, "The implementation of the letter is far more important than the letter itself. I personally don't think it's hard to implement. For these things, you have got to take a position. You have got to show a sign of disapproval.
"The things that are degrading to a person, once it's clear that they are degrading, we must make sure we eliminate them. Joshing and booing and funmaking are one thing, but I don't want to hear anyone telling me some of this other stuff is done in fun."
Thompson said that crowd control at Georgetown home games at Capital Centre will not be handled any differently from the past. "We won't do any more now than we've been doing," he said, adding, "If someone put up something that was offensive to someone, we would certainly make sure that it was taken down."
One Big East coach said yesterday that Gavitt's letter "kind of put us on our guard."
Most of the other improvements in game management that Gavitt recommended in his letter are organizational in nature. Among other issues, Gavitt wants the area near the playing court kept clear so that fans near the court won't block players' view of the shot clock.
Gavitt recommended that coaches curtail confusion on the benches during games. "Mostly it has to do with assistant coaches and team managers standing up during the game," Gavitt said. "I was at one game where a player on the court passed the ball to someone who was standing near the bench, who wasn't even in the game.
"This is the first time I have ever discussed game management in a letter like this," he said. "I told them in the letter that while it was their function, we at the conference office had some observations that struck us. We've got to tidy up our functions."