The Big East Conference last night instituted new rules designed to curb the violence that has erupted in recent basketball games, with suspensions mandated for those involved in fights on the court.
Any player or bench personnel, excluding the head coach, leaving the bench area would be subject to an automatic suspension from the next conference game. And "any player ejected from a game for fighting will be, if affirmed by the commissioner, subject to suspension from the next conference game."
Commissioner Dave Gavitt and the Big East executive committee, composed of three schools' athletic directors, adopted the policy changes during a telephone conference yesterday. League rules empower the committee to enact policy for the entire nine-school conference or to give additional powers to the commissioner during the time between regularly scheduled conference meetings. However, in an effort to put up a united front, the policies were "reaffirmed and approved" by the other six athletic directors, according to a statement from the conference office.
The new rules will be in effect through the rest of the season, beginning with tonight's game between Georgetown and St. John's at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Head coaches will be allowed to go on court to break up fights.
"That reaffirms one of the roles of the head coach, which is to control his team," said Seton Hall Athletic Director Larry Keating, chairman of the executive committee.
After earlier incidents, the athletic directors had hoped the coaches would control players enough to stop the fighting.
"It's obvious that in some instances, they haven't been able to control it," Pittsburgh Athletic Director Ed Bozik told the Associated Press. "So, if the carrot doesn't work, then you apply a bigger stick."
There have been several fights this season in the Big East, the latest coming in Saturday's game between Georgetown and Pittsburgh, a bench-clearing fracas that forced officials to stop the contest with four seconds left. Those two teams had fought in their first meeting and both of the games were on national television.
In the league's statement, Gavitt said, "The Big East Conference views its high visibility, which tends to magnify any problem areas, as an opportunity to be an innovative leader in addressing national trends. One of these trends is a deterioration of conduct and good sportsmanship as it relates to coaches, players and fans of college basketball."
Attending the Connecticut-Boston College game last night in Boston, he could not be reached for further comment.
Keating said the new policies would be in place for the rest of this season, at which time the athletic directors will seek more input from the coaches, as far as any changes in penalties. "It might be that they aren't any different," Keating said.
Besides those regarding suspensions, the conference issued three policy statements:
"The directors of athletics reaffirmed their commitment to ensure conduct of conference games at their home sites is in accordance with the high standards of sportsmanship and sound principles of game management."
"The directors of athletics reaffirm their support of the conference officiating staff to control physical play, particularly as it relates to the calling of flagrant and intentional fouls as outlined in the NCAA basketball rules."
"The directors of athletics and head coaches will at the conclusion of the season put forth and implement a major program aimed at providing positive leadership by Big East administrators, coaches, athletes to ensure all competition be conducted at the highest standards of ethics and sportsmanship."
Georgetown Athletic Director Frank Rienzo, a member of the executive committee, could not be reached for comment. Coach John Thompson was not taking calls at the team's hotel in New York.
Thompson's Hoyas, who have long been known for their aggressive defense, have been involved in three fights this season. Besides Pittsburgh, the Hoyas tangled with Boston College.