Big Ten needs to put Davis outburst in perspective

Mike Davis' actions at the end of last Saturday's game against Kentucky were wrong and deserve the proper punishment. Yet, the Big Ten wants to penalize Davis more severely than the conference penalized more established coaches for similar offenses.

The Big Ten told interim athletics director Terry Clapacs that Mike Davis' suspension could last for 20 percent of the season, resulting in the loss of six games for the coach. Indiana has until 3 pm on Friday to decide the course of action to take with Davis. The Big Ten implied to Clapacs that if the university fails to take action, the conference would.

''What I did was wrong, and I'll support Terry Clapacs and our administration with whatever they think is right,'' Davis told The Indianapolis Star.

Davis would like to appeal the suspension but that would delay the suspension further into the Big Ten season. If the suspension began on Saturday, Davis would miss three non-conference games at Temple, at Ball State, Charlotte, and three Big Ten conference games against Penn State, at Ohio State and Northwestern.

Clapacs wants to support his coach by appealing the decision, but the cost of losing their coach for the Big Ten season might be too high. Clapacs still commends the coach who led the Hoosiers to the championship game last season.

''He's a terrific coach and a terrific man, and the Kentucky game means a lot to him,'' he said. ''Clearly, he coaches with passion. You saw that in the Duke game last year, and you saw that against Kentucky.''

While neither Clapacs nor Davis expect the suspension to be for the full six games, the fact that the Big Ten wants to suspend Davis for six games shows their disregard for recent history within their own conference and perhaps some favoritism as well.

Earlier this year Penn State football coach Joe Paterno ran to an official and grabbed him by the shoulder after an overtime loss to Iowa. Paterno, like Davis, was angry about some bad calls during the game. Paterno was not suspended, nor did he have to pay a fine because he had coached for so many years at Penn State. In other words, because Joe Paterno is so respected in the college football community he was not subject to the same penalty as other coaches.

In a letter sent to Indiana recommending the suspension of Davis, the Big Ten said Davis broke its Ethical Conduct policy with his outburst at the end of the Kentucky game. The explicit phrase mentioned by the conference was "intentionally or with careless disregard for one's conduct, inciting participants or spectators to violent or abusive action."

But the crowd remained calm after the incident last Saturday; unlike past crowd reactions to former Indiana coach Bob Knight. In February 1998, Knight incited the crowd by yelling at official Ted Valentine, earning himself three technical fouls and an ejection from the game. After being ejected, Knight stormed past Valentine drawing cheers from the crowd for the Indiana coaching legend and resulting in a dislike for Valentine that still persists among some fans in Bloomington today.

The Big Ten found that Knight violated the same sportsmanship conduct code that Davis broke last Saturday, but it gave Knight the option of a $10,000 fine or a one-game suspension. Knight chose to pay the fine and a six-game suspension was never considered. Again, the Big Ten allowed a respected coach to slide a little on the rules.

Clearly, a six-game suspension is not consistent with rulings made recently by the Big Ten. Favoritism is going to be given to coaching legends just as it is given to legendary players. For the most part, Michael Jordan can take three steps in the lane without being called for traveling; that's just the way it is. But Jordan is never shown so much favoritism that it creates a gap between him and the rest of the players. If Knight and Paterno were not suspended at all for their actions, then Mike Davis does not deserve a six-game suspension for similar actions or a gap would be created amongst Big Ten coaches.

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