Bloomington, Ind. – Excuse me if I don't stand up and applaud the University of Illinois' response to its crowd's behavior Thursday night in Champaign.
On Friday afternoon, the university issued a one-paragraph "apology" for the barrage of profane jeers and boos it doused IU freshman guard Eric Gordon with the night before. The statement admonished a "small segment of fans" for their behavior, saying it was "disappointing and intolerable."
For that, Illinois is sorry.
But to whom? The apology wasn't even directed at Gordon or IU in general - instead it was a request for forgiveness from the fans of both teams in attendance, presumably for having to listen to "(Bleep) You Gordon" periodically for 2 ½ hours.
Considering there were 16,618 fans in attendance and all but about 100 of them were dressed in orange, as best as I can understand it, Illinois has apologized to its fans for their behavior.
The apology also doesn't address the reports of ice and/or beads being thrown into the IU fans section where Eric Gordon's family was seated, nor the pre-game cheap shot delivered by Chester Frazier when he unexpectedly shoulder checked Gordon during introductions. Those two incidents were more objectionable than the profane chants, but those were ignored in Illinois' act of contrition.
I'm not buying the authenticity of this apology, or accepting it. This wasn't a "small segment of the fans" as Illinois' release suggests. It was both students and non-students, and was often times the majority of those in attendance who chanted in unison.
"You have a little bit of a gang mentality about that," IU Coach Kelvin Sampson said Friday. "When people get together and someone starts chanting, I don't think they mean it as much as (they think) ‘everyone else is saying it, so I'm going to say it.'"
This "apology" reeks of a reactionary response to a barrage of criticism from national media, many of whom were courtside for the highly-anticipated showdown between Gordon and the program that felt jilted when he bolted for Bloomington.
I'd venture a guess that neither Illinois A.D. Ron Guenther nor Coach Bruce Weber were actively involved in crafting the statement, and that both reluctantly agreed that an apology was in order, as misdirected as it might have been.
If there was anything sincere about this, Guenther would have directed the Assembly Hall public address announcer to issue a warning after the first…or second…or tenth time the crowd started a chant of the four-letter variety.
That never happened.
If there was anything since about this, Weber wouldn't have saluted the crowd for their fervor just minutes after the game.
"You couldn't ask for more from the crowd," Weber said. "They were tremendous."
Umm…yes, you could have asked for more from the crowd. Cheering with fervor and passion is not only tolerable, but what makes college basketball great. There's also nothing wrong with booing, but the Illini fans took it too far.
More also could have and should have been asked from Weber and Guenther in this misdirected apology as well.
A small degree of sincerity would have been a good start.
The following is the statement issued by the University of Illinois in the aftermath of Thursday night's game:
There was a great college basketball game played Thursday night between the University of Illinois and Indiana University, but the game has been somewhat diminished by inappropriate behavior by a number of fans in attendance. We value the enthusiastic support of the sellout crowds at the Assembly Hall, but above all we take very seriously the reputation of our basketball program and the University of Illinois. The profanity and behavior by a small segment of fans Thursday night is disappointing and intolerable, and for that we apologize to fans of both teams."
DECKER: Apology Doesn't Measure Up
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