Forget Snoop Dogg’s “acrobatic dancers.”
Forget Bill Self’s chain.
This will —fairly or not — be the lasting image of the darkest hour of a fabled Kansas basketball program.
Searing image for KU-KSU brawl
A photo of sophomore Silvio De Sousa wielding a chair in the midst of a brawl to close Tuesday’s rivalry game against Kansas State encapsulates a visceral moment at Allen Fieldhouse and an ugly era in Lawrence.
What sparked the melee?
The brawl happened as the game was coming to an end. Head coach Self didn’t even see it start as he walked toward midcourt to shake the hand of Kansas State coach Bruce Weber to cap a convincing home win over an in-state conference rival.
A late steal by Kansas State’s DaJuan Gordon in a contest that was long past decided sparked the emotions that would spill into the baseline stands. De Sousa’s satisfied swat to deny Gordon a cheap bucket as time ran out concluded with De Sousa standing over his vanquished opponent in gloating victory.
From there, it didn’t take long for both benches to clear and wreak havoc in the baseline territory occupied by cheerleaders and media members, who made way for the fracas to ensue.
Punches were thrown. Bodies were shoved to the ground. A single chair was lifted with bad intentions.
That chair was in the hands and above the head of De Sousa, who had it stripped from behind before he could cause real damage or become college basketball’s answer to Myles Garrett.
But just because he didn’t connect with that chair like Garrett’s helmet did to Mason Rudolph’s head doesn’t mean there won’t be lasting consequences. For a Jayhawks team ranked No. 3 in the nation with its sights set on a Final Four, it’s the kind of ordeal that could derail a season.
Self made no bones about it that his players were at fault.
“I know that we were in the wrong,” Self said after the game. “I’m not saying that both parties weren’t in the wrong, but I know that we were in the wrong.”
What the direct consequences will be are unclear as of Tuesday night. But there will be suspensions. Athletic director Jeff Long echoed Self’s sentiments while promising “appropriate consequences” to be handed down in concert with the Big 12.
How the Jayhawks respond to the turmoil could very well determine how their season plays out. Whether that goes on with or without De Sousa is to be determined.
This is KU basketball
But the results of this season seem trite in light of the state of Kansas basketball and college hoops in general, which operates in the overwhelming shadow of the pay-for-play scandal and the NCAA’s duplicity that demands it.
That it was De Sousa — the very player at the center of the Adidas scandal for Self’s Jayhawks — epitomizes the troubled times defining Kansas basketball.
De Sousa was handed a two-year ban from the NCAA after Adidas representative TJ Gassnola testified he gave $2,500 to his guardian Fenny Falmagne during the college basketball corruption trial in order to steer him to Lawrence.
The NCAA cut the ban in half in May upon appeal, allowing him to play this season for Self’s squad. And now, 17 games into his sophomore season, De Sousa has arrived at this moment.
This isn’t to pile on a 21-year-old who’s as much a victim of the NCAA’s corruption as anybody. That the balance of his life was put on hold for an alleged $2,500 payment while Kansas re-upped with Adidas for a cool $196 million is the height of hypocrisy.
But that this player on this night was captured in this image represents an unfortunate synopsis for KU basketball.
And just as unfair is that it will leave a lasting impression that stands alongside and may even eclipse Self’s and KU’s obtuse decision to promote Late Night in the Phog with the head coach wearing a massive chain and an Adidas T-shirt in the midst of the Adidas pay-for-play scandal while he works on a $52 million contract.
De Sousa deserves fair criticism for his role in Tuesday’s melee. He made bad decisions that could end up jeopardizing his role at KU.
But his actions in the heat of the moment pale in comparison to the outward, planned corruption that has engulfed college basketball and embroiled KU.
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