With less than 10 seconds remaining in the game and Oklahoma State trailing Texas Tech by two points on Saturday, Cowboys’ star Marcus Smart came flying down the court and into the air at the opposing team’s rim in a valiant attempt to misdirect a dunk attempt by Texas Tech’s Jaye Crockett.
Smart’s momentum carried him beyond the end line and into a group of people assembled behind the basket and in front of the seated fans. As he was being helped to his feat by a teammate there appeared to be a short word exchange between Smart and a fan in the front row of the fan section. Quickly thereafter, Smart lunged at the vocal fan and shoved him with two hands hard backward before being pulled off by teammates and restrained from any further retaliation. A technical foul was assessed to Smart for unsportsmanlike behavior, but he was not ejected from the game.
It was never really fully clarified, but it appears from what has been reported and said about this incident in the days that followed that the individual who reputedly started the altercation is a longtime supporter of the Red Raiders – in fact, he has been referred to by the Red Raider faithful as Super Fan – used the “N” word in taunting Smart.
There is no question that a player – regardless of whether it is a student athlete or a professional athlete – should never go into the stands and attack a fan. The players need to control their emotions and definitely not carry them outside of the court boundaries where they could injure or inappropriately confront an innocent bystander.
Misconduct by any player in the course of a game, let alone a player with such outstanding talent and a team leader, should not be condoned and needs to be dealt with in the moment and, if necessary, immediately following the inappropriate action so as not to establish a bad precedent. It also should serve as a clear example that similar bad behavior will not be tolerated and will result in strict consequences.
One of the problems in the incident involving Oklahoma State’s Smart last weekend was that the Big 12 rules did not spell out what to do if a player goes into the stands and accosts a fan. “There is no precedent for that,” said Big 12 coordinator of officials Curtis Shaw. “We don’t have grounds for dealing with a fan. We don’t have a rule to get involved when the player is involved with a fan,” he told ESPN.
Shaw went on to point out that anything involving a fan is up to the host school (in this case, Texas Tech). “That’s up to the security of the home team and the conference,” Shaw said. “We’ve never had a fan with a player incident before.”
Within 24 hours of the incident, the Big 12 suspended Smart for three games, which means he will sit out Oklahoma State’s games at Texas, at home Saturday against in-state rival Oklahoma and on Monday, when the Cowboys travel to Baylor.
The Big 12 rulebook says that a player who is charged with a personal foul determined to be a “flagrant 2″ foul, (when, in the judgement of the game officials, a player commits a hard foul in the course of play that is considered to be intentional and with the intent to do harm to another player) the guilty player is immediately ejected from the game and, in addition, is issued a one-game suspension.
But that is for inappropriate conduct on the court and in the course of game action.
My take on the situation is that the Big 12 Conference was absolutely correct in issuing a multiple-game suspension to Smart in response to his inappropriate actions at the end of last Saturday’s game at Texas Tech. A one game penalty would not have been be severe enough, in my personal view, and to suspend Smart for a longer period would seem like an overreach for a situation for which there was no prior precedent.
The punishment (three-game suspension) seems more than appropriate and sppears to fit the crime in this instance. game.
Here is what Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford had to say about the incident: “Marcus Smart made a big mistake. He knows that,” Ford said after the Texas Tech game. “I know2 Marcus Smart. Pretty much been around him on a daily basis for two years. Undoubtedly, (it) was not one of his finest moments. But he has had a lot of fine moments as a player and as a person.”
“Mr Smart’s actions were a clear violation of the Big 12 Conference’s Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct Policy,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement issued the day after aformentioned incident. “Such behavior has no place in athletics, and will not be tolerated.”
Pretty serious consequences for an incident that unfolded over a period of about 10 seconds. It comes at a critical time in the season, when Oklahoma State is fighting for its postseason lives, but at least it was not at the very end of the season, when Smart’s college career might have prematurely come to an end.
My guess is that we’ll see Smart think first from now on before he lets his emotions get the most of him. And those goes for the other players around the Big 12 conference, as well. A precedent has now been set.
You can bet that every other head coach in the Big 12 has spoken to his team about the Smart incident and used it as a teaching opportunity. It may be somewhat premature to think this way, but I believe that because of this unfortunate incident, Big 12 basketball play and officiating of the games will be better for the experience.