Forward Silvio De Sousa, who raised the stool over his head during the melee, was suspended 12 games by the Big 12 Conference, the conference announced in a statement Wednesday. Other players involved in the melee were also suspended by the conference. Kansas State’s James Love III was suspended for eight games, while one of his teammates, Antonio Gordon, was given a three-game suspension. Kansas’s David McCormack was suspended two games.
“This kind of behavior cannot be tolerated and these suspensions reflect the severity of last evening’s events,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement. “I am appreciative of the cooperation of both institutions in resolving this matter.”
Earlier in the day, De Sousa had been suspended indefinitely by Kansas Coach Bill Self, who had promised that there would be “consequences” from the ugly fight. In a statement, Self said he supported the Big 12 Conference’s decision.
“After meeting with my team and discussing the incident in detail, it is evident that everyone fully understands the magnitude of their actions and all are remorseful for what occurred,” Self said in the statement. “We represent the University of Kansas and will all learn from this experience moving forward.”
De Sousa posted a lengthy apology to Twitter, calling his behavior “highly unacceptable” and saying he felt embarrassed by his actions on Tuesday night.
“There is no amount of regret that I can express that will correct this mistake,” he said in the statement.
De Sousa said he would continue to support Kansas during his suspension and do what he could to help out.
“I messed up and I am sorry,” he said.
ESPN’s Dick Vitale tweeted that the incident was, in his 40 years at the network, “as bad as it gets” and “so sad [and] embarrassing for a program rich in tradition.” He called for the Big 12 Conference to “come down heavily” on those involved.
The fight came as No. 3 Kansas was blowing out its visiting rival at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence. De Sousa appeared to be dribbling out the final seconds near midcourt in the Jayhawks’ 81-60 win when Kansas State’s DaJuan Gordon stole the ball and headed for a layup. De Sousa tracked him down, forcefully blocked the shot and made a point of standing over Gordon, who had fallen to the floor.
The play unfolded near the Wildcats’ bench, and some of their players got up from their seats to confront De Sousa, which sparked the brawl as Kansas players also ran to the scene. Some players appeared to throw punches, including De Sousa, who picked up a stool and held it over his head before Kansas assistant coach Jerrance Howard intervened.
Love and Kansas State teammate David Sloan were the first Wildcats to run to Gordon, while in addition to De Sousa and McCormack, Kansas’ Marcus Garrett was also involved.
Meanwhile, fans positioned near the basket scattered as security personnel, coaches and even cheerleaders tried to restrain players.
“Obviously it’s an embarrassment,” Self said after the game. “It’s not something to be proud of. What happened showed zero signs of toughness. It’s a sign of immaturity and selfishness more so than toughness.”
“It’s probably my fault,” Wildcats Coach Bruce Weber told reporters. “I had told them not to press, not to foul. I had told them to back off, but the kids are young guys. They want to play hard. They were disappointed and frustrated. You don’t want to take that fire out of their belly, but at the same time, you have to handle it right. I guess it created a bad thing.”
Self said he didn’t see the start of the brawl because he was already shaking hands with Weber as Gordon was dribbling toward the hoop. “But I know that we were in the wrong — I’m not saying that both parties weren’t in the wrong, but I know that we were in the wrong,” he said.
Jeff Long, the Kansas athletic director, said in a statement that “the conduct of a few of our student-athletes at the conclusion of tonight’s game vs. Kansas State was simply unacceptable and not reflective of who we are.
“Coach Self and I will review the incident, along with the Big 12 Conference and Kansas State to determine appropriate consequences. There is no place for this conduct in college athletics or here at KU. I would like to apologize to the Big 12 Conference, Kansas State University, [K-State AD] Gene Taylor, [K-State coach] Bruce Weber and all fans for the lack of sportsmanship from members of our team this evening.”
“We came here wanting to have a game and compete, and we didn’t compete like we needed to,” Weber said. “There was probably a little frustration, especially the young guys. You wish it would have ended a little different, and it didn’t. That’s sad.”
As De Sousa stood over and taunted Gordon, he was given a technical foul. Five players were ejected and officials sent players to the locker rooms. Refs then called the Jayhawks (15-3, 5-1 Big 12) and Wildcats (8-10, 1-5) back onto the court and put one-tenth of a second on the clock so KSU’s Pierson McAtee could attempt the technical free throws. He made one and the game was over.
Of Gordon’s decision to steal the ball from De Sousa, Self said: “I don’t know that it is the right thing to do, but I am not going to place any blame on Gordon going and taking his ball. Silvio knew he was being defended and he took his ball. The way Silvio reacted to taking his ball, going down and blocking his shot, was all fair game. The horn hadn’t gone off yet.
“Everything that happened after that is obviously what set things off.”
De Sousa was reinstated to the Jayhawks’ program in May after Kansas won an appeal of a lengthy suspension that cost the 6-foot-9 player all of the 2018-19 season. As part of the FBI’s wide-ranging probe into corruption in college basketball, the NCAA determined that a legal guardian for De Sousa had accepted a $2,500 payment and a promise of an extra $20,000 for helping steer him to Kansas.
The Jayhawks have until Feb. 19 to respond to a Notice of Allegations they received from the NCAA in September, citing the cases of De Sousa and another Kansas recruit and charging Self and the program with a lack of institutional control.
Kansas and Kansas State will meet again Feb. 29 in Manhattan, Kan.