Jenni Carlson: KU-K-State brawl forever a memory — and stain — at storied Allen Fieldhouse
The game that stands out most was on a Saturday afternoon.
UCLA, the defending national champion, came to Allen Fieldhouse, and Kansas fans were hyped. They got hyped no matter who came to town, but the Bruins? This was big even among Jayhawk Nation.
But then, the Bruins built a huge lead. Double digits. Crowd silencing.
The showdown went flat.
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Until sharp-shooting Billy Thomas hit a few shots early in the second half. Point guard Jacque Vaughn soon joined in, and the 15-point lead UCLA had at halftime evaporated and Allen Fieldhouse nearly exploded. The roar from the Kansas faithful was so loud, so intense you couldn’t hear the person next to you well enough to hold a conversation.
Kansas, down by 15, won by 15.
It was one of the most memorable things I’ve ever witnessed.
But truthfully, during my college days at Kansas in the mid-90s, I saw lots of memorable moments at Allen Fieldhouse. People say the place is magical, and that isn’t true. Kansas basketball has just been really good for so long that the building has taken on a mystical quality. Beware the Phog and all.
There is something special, though, about that place.
That made what happened Monday night in Allen Fieldhouse all the worse.
You’ve no doubt seen the video or the photos of the melee that broke out at the end of the Kansas-Kansas State game. The indelible image, of course, is Jayhawk forward Silvio De Sousa holding a stool over his head, ready to strike.
It’s not just that Allen Fieldhouse had never seen anything like that.
College basketball hasn't seen much of anything like it.
Back in 1972, the men's basketball teams from Minnesota and Ohio State got into a brawl that trumps even the Malice at the Palace, the fight that broke out between the Pacers and the Pistons and spilled into the stands back in 2004. The melee between the Gophers and the Buckeyes was sparked by a knee to the groin and included many punches thrown. It turned lasted several minutes. It was practically a riot.
It was awful.
So was what happened Monday in Lawrence.
Thankfully, no one was hurt. Not players. Not coaches. Not security. But best of all, no fans were injured. The fight erupted in a court-side area used by fans in wheelchairs. The fact nothing went horribly wrong is extremely lucky.
But that shouldn’t lessen the severity of what happened.
I’m glad the punishments handed down Wednesday were harsh. De Sousa got the worst of it, suspended for 12 games, while fellow Jayhawk David McCormack got two games. Two K-State players were also suspended, James Love for eight games and Antonio Gordon for three.
If any other players had been suspended or any of those who were had gotten more games, I wouldn’t have complained. The punishments needed to be significant. The repercussions needed to be serious.
The message, after all, had to be clear.
There can be no more scenes like we saw Monday. I understand Kansas and Kansas State are rivals. Their games are intense. Their rivalry is heated. But so is Oklahoma-Oklahoma State. North Carolina-Duke. Ohio State-Michigan. Kentucky-Louisville. The list of intense rivalries in college sports is a mile long.
But we’ve never seen Sooners and Cowboys raising stools above their heads, ready to smash them into each other’s skulls. We’ve never seen such things out of any of those rivals.
And we never want to either.
That’s why the punishments had to be big. They had to send a message far and wide that such shenanigans won’t be tolerated. Sports deserves better. College basketball deserves better.
Heaven knows, Allen Fieldhouse deserves better.
Decades from now, people will talk about the amazing things that happened in that special arena. Just in my short time there, I saw an overtime win against Indiana that ended with Jacque Vaughn jumping up on the scorers’ table to celebrate, an overtime win against Oklahoma State and Big Country when Steve Woodbury hit a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left, and yes, that big comeback against UCLA. People will always remember those special kinds of moments.
But they’ll always remember that brawl Monday night, too. It’s forever a stain.