After a fight broke out at a women’s basketball game between UNILV and Utah State on Jan. 7, eight players were ejected from the game. This seems fair. That same day, however, Kent Davidson and Steve Shields, who hold administrative positions for Georgia and Missouri, respectively, came to blows. Their teams were given fouls and they both went back to doing their jobs after half time. This seems a lot less fair.
In the world of sports, there’s a warm and fuzzy narrative that surrounds a coach and his players: He may push them hard, but he wants what’s best for the team. There’s a strong belief that his players are a reflection of him. We see this story told in movies, we mention names like Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and we seldom question whether or not this narrative is true. The incidents that have taken place in college basketball seem to prove that this isn’t the case.
This isn’t to say that these coaches and administrative figures don’t care about their players, but their relationships aren’t as connected as they are portrayed to be. If players were truly a reflection of their coach, both parties would suffer the same consequences. Why weren’t Kent Davidson and Steve Shields pulled from the game?
Perhaps the argument could be made that the ladies of Utah State and UNILV had a bigger brawl. Media outlets like CBS Sports described it as brutal. Yet, both situations involved more than just two people and were broken up rather quickly. So why were players punished in both situations and not coaches?
Of course, the mechanics of a team are intricate and all the moving parts do have a connection to each other. So, the loss of team members from UNILV and Utah State probably did have a negative impact on the coaches and so did the fouls that were given to Georgia and Missouri. But consequences hit those they are given to directly the hardest. College players have a lot to lose and a lot to think about. Getting ejected from a game or being given fouls directly impacts the player much more than their coach. The same goes for a reversal. What’s going to stop a coach from poor conduct if he knows that the penalty will ultimately be for his players and not for him?
There’s nothing wrong with having strict rules or a zero-tolerance policy for fighting in any sport. It just needs to exist across the board. Next time two coaches come to blows on the court, eject them, too.