Willis Thomas, athletic director at the University of the District of Columbia, said yesterday he is suspending Coach Wil Jones for two games for pulling his basketball team off the court and striking one of his players during the disruption at Mount St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, Md., Saturday night.
"In the student-athlete concept and my integrity, I made the decision," Thomas said. "Athletics is set up for the students. Nothing should jeopardize that. After seeing the film, they shouldn't have been taken off the court."
Jones admitted he slapped one of his players, freshman forward Richard McLean, while breaking up a scuffle involving fans and UDC players upon termination of play. Thomas said, "I wouldn't stand for it. I think after two days of talking, he understands the situation."
Jones called his team off the court, forfeiting the game, to protest the officiating with 7 1/2 minutes remaining and the Mountaineers leading, 71-57. Mount St. Mary's President Robert Wickenheiser announced Tuesday that his school was canceling the Feb. 8 return engagement at UDC because Jones "lost total control of his team."
The Firebirds were given six technicals, three on Jones, in the Emmitsburg game. Before his final technical, Jones apparently threw a towel at an official. Wickenheiser, who attended the game, said Tuesday, "At that point, you've got to say this isn't a game anymore." He was not available to comment yesterday.
Jones will miss games tonight at Central State in Wilberforce, Ohio, and Thursday at Point Park College in Pittsburgh. Assistant William (Doc) Robinson will assume head coaching responsibilities.
Sitting in his UDC office yesterday, Jones said, "They made the decision. I can live with the decision. I had a really good talk with Mr. Thomas. I understand Mr. Thomas, and I'm going to work with him. I understand it was necessary, and I just have to live with it. My assistant is as capable as me. It will just be one less seat on the bench.
"I'm a strong person. But it's the way things are written that make you look like the bad guy."
Thomas, who viewed game film and talked with Jones yesterday morning, said he saw no reason for Jones to withdraw his team. Jones said he forfeited the game because it appeared a fight might break out between the teams.
Asked if his action was taken as a step toward possibly influencing Mount St. Mary's to play the Feb. 8 game, Thomas said, "I saw nothing in that game that would lead me to believe that they couldn't play here. I believe that if it was up to the players, they would come. If the players decide to, we can assure them it would be secure."
Jim Phelan, the coach at Mount St. Mary's, said last night he was "startled" by Thomas' decision to suspend Jones.
"I think it's a step in the right direction . . . ," Phelan said. "I think he's a good coach and a good person, but he just flipped out. I think the school is saying out loud they didn't approve of what went on up here. The Feb. 8 game is already decided. We will not go down there."