Saying the previous strategy for preventing fights and unsportsmanlike conduct in Big East Conference basketball games "has failed," Commissioner Dave Gavitt announced yesterday the league's executive committee will convene early this week to "consider special measures aimed to help insure immediate discontinuation of such unacceptable behavior."

The announcement came less than 24 hours after a multiplayer brawl ended the Georgetown-at-Pittsburgh game Saturday with four seconds remaining and Pitt leading, 70-65. Georgetown has been involved in two other fights during games this season, last month against Pittsburgh at Capital Centre and on a visit to Boston College.

The three-man executive committee will meet via a conference telephone call either today or Tuesday. The committee has the authority to change conference policies during the season; Gavitt has no authority to act on his own.

A league spokesperson said any action taken by the executive committee would not be retroactive. Neither the Providence, R.I.-based Gavitt nor anyone on the executive committee comprising athletic directors Frank Rienzo of Georgetown, Todd Turner of Connecticut and Larry Keating of Seton Hall was available for comment yesterday.

It is possible the executive committee will adopt a policy of suspending players involved in fights or other unsportsmanlike conduct. The conference currently has no such policy, although Gavitt's statement yesterday indicated that one may have been considered following the first Pittsburgh-Georgetown game. In that game, Georgetown's Mark Tillmon was ejected for a first-half fight with Pitt's Jerome Lane, who also was involved in Saturday's fracas.

"Following the problems . . . {in} the first Pittsburgh-Georgetown game in January, it was our belief that our coaches would deal effectively with assuring there would be no reoccurrence," Gavitt said. "The events of Saturday indicate, regrettably, that this strategy has failed.

"After consulting with the athletic directors at Pittsburgh {Edward Bozik} and Georgetown, both of whom share disappointment and concern, the subjects of fighting and unsportsmanlike conduct will be put before the executive committee . . . this week. The executive committee will consider specific measures aimed to insure immediate discontinuation of such unacceptable behavior in the future."

The NCAA has no policy on discipline for fighting during the regular season, leaving such sanctions to the individual conferences, said NCAA spokesman Jim Marchiony. But few college conferences have a written policy regarding fighting. Among leagues in which area teams play, neither the Atlantic Coast Conference nor the Colonial Athletic Association has one.

The Big Sky Conference automatically suspends for one game a player involved in a second fight and, if he is involved in another, he is suspended the rest of the season. The Western Athletic Conference commissioner is empowered to suspend players.

The Big East had a leaguewide fighting problem three seasons ago before implementing a two-shot technical foul for each player who leaves the bench during a fight. The league did not have any fights the past two seasons.

In Saturday's game, Georgetown's Perry McDonald and Pitt's Lane fought after jockeying for position on a free throw. Both benches cleared, and two more fights took place before McDonald and Lane came together again, crashing into press row. The game was ended at that point.

After the game, Georgetown Coach John Thompson said that pro basketball players "who are supposed to be under more control than these kids are supposed to be" also fight, and that other college conferences have had problems with teams fighting this season. Saturday, Louisville and South Carolina brawled in a Metro Conference game in Columbia, S.C.

Yesterday, Thompson said he is willing to accept some responsibility for his team, but feels it unfair to accept all the blame for a "spontaneous act" such as Saturday's fight.

"You're talking about the maturation process of a young man," he said. "In . . . dealing with that, you have to deal with a whole lot of factors. If they're serious about that, don't put the whole responsibility on a basketball coach. If they're serious about it, let's turn back all the TV money and play in private and take a lot of the pressure out of it."

Pitt Coach Paul Evans could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The nine Big East athletic directors, according to Christine Plonsky of the league office, usually meet in September, January and May to discuss and implement league policy. The executive committee frequently meets during the season to adjust television policies or other factors having to do with the conference or the conference tournament, she said.

Athletic Director Jake Crouthamel of Syracuse said he didn't think the executive committee would "set a hard-and-fast rule" on fighting. "Whatever that policy may be is too significant to be decided by three members {of the conference}," he told the Syracuse Post-Standard. "That's not even a majority. On significant issue like this, all nine of us are usually involved."

Thompson said he welcomed this week's meeting, but, "I'm not certain what I think of it. It's all right for them to sit down and discuss those things. But I think it's just as important to discuss the things that led up to those problems . . . You cannot talk about things that happened in a specific instance without talking about the things that lead up to it."

"I don't blame the Pittsburgh people," Thompson said. "I don't think Jerome or Perry went on the floor with the intention of fighting. That was not something that was premeditated with four seconds in the game . . . Jerome pushes to get a lot of his rebounds. We may push to play man defense. None of it is intended."

Thompson said he spoke with his team Saturday evening when it returned from Pittsburgh, "but if talk could stop spontaneous reactions in a highly emotional game," he said, "it would stop drugs, it would stop a lot of things."

Asked if he threatened actions such as suspension for a game for fighting, Thompson said, "I have threatened something worse than that, and it was before today."