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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)
The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference suspended 15 players involved in last Saturday's fight at Bruce Hall between the LeMoyne-Owen and Lane College basketball teams, plus handed down fines against the schools and coaches, the conference announced Friday.
Additionally, the conference said any spectator identified as an active participant in the fight will receive a lifetime ban to all SIAC events, regardless of the sport.
Conference officials said in a release that the two schools will have the opportunity to stagger the player suspensions based on a schedule approved by the SIAC. If a player has any games remaining on his suspension at the end of the regular season, those penalties will be served during the conference's postseason tournament.
The game, which was stopped after the incident, was declared a no contest.
The player suspensions range from three to five games, depending on the player's involvement. The conference did not identify the specific players suspended and said officials would have no further comment beyond the statement.
The interests of student-athlete and spectator safety and good sportsmanship during intercollegiate athletic events are sacrosanct and represent a core article of faith for our league," SIAC Commissioner Gregory Moore said in a release,
"The incident which unfolded Saturday evening not only was in direct contravention of these critically important interests," Moore said, "but in a larger and very real sense, these isolated incidents scar and victimize league stakeholders throughout the SIAC who work extremely hard to ensure that athletic events across all of our campuses remain safe places and spaces for all of our student-athletes and loyal fans."
Officials with LeMoyne-Owen said in a written statement they will fully comply with SIAC's ruling and with the penalties the conference has levied.
"The punishment handed down by the SIAC is in accordance with the values we hold at LeMoyne-Owen College and reflects our stance regarding our players' inappropriate behavior during the contest," said William Anderson, the men's head basketball coach. "We expect more from our athletes and will not accept this type of behavior."
In a statement, Lane College's athletic director called the sanctions "necessary and fair," and said the school had imposed unspecified "institutional sanctions" after is own investigation of the brawl.
"We are disappointed that our student-athletes were involved in the incident on Saturday. However, the sanctions are necessary and fair," said Athletic Director Derrick Burroughs. "As a result of our investigation, we had imposed institutional sanctions. Those sanctions will remain in place. Because the sanctions involve students, we will offer no further comment."
The seven suspended LeMoyne-Owen players will serve their suspensions in accordance with conference guidelines, Anderson said. LeMoyne-Owen will also increase from eight to 10 the number of security personnel at all games.
And Andrea Lewis Miller, college president, will continue to work with Lane president Logan Hampton to ensure the rivalry between the schools remains healthy.
"I want this incident to serve as a teachable moment that will grow into interaction off the court that fosters unity between the colleges' students, student athletes and the respective communities in which we reside, learn and serve," Miller said in the statement.
At least two videos circulated on social media showing punches thrown as other players, coaches, referees and school officials attempted to calm the situation and separate the two teams.
An announcer can be heard asking the crowd to clear the basketball court and the players to return to their respective locker rooms.
One video clearly shows a young man in dark clothing slam a Lane player with a folding chair.
Officials indicated earlier this week that they identified the man with the chair, who is not a LeMoyne-Owen student, and were working with Memphis police "to press charges to the fullest extent of the law because we are not going to tolerate this type of activity," Daphne Thomas, a spokeswoman for LeMoyne-Owen, said.
In the release, conference officials echoed the approach to prosecute spectators involved in the brawl "to the fullest extent pursuant to prevailing state and local statutes and ordinances.
LeMoyne-Owen has joined the SIAC in issuing a lifetime ban that bars the man in the video from attending college events and activities.
The conference said that three athletes were suspended five games each because they left the bench and were involved in the fight. Two other players received three-game suspensions for their actions, and 10 players who left the bench were issued a "minimum two-game suspension."
"Further, the SIAC will also impose institutional fines against LeMoyne-Owen and Lane ... as well as individual fines against both schools' respective head coaches of an undisclosed amount," the release states.
Lane is scheduled to play LeMoyne-Owen again in Jackson, Tennessee, on Feb. 11.
"As a conference, we will continue to fiercely protect and advance these interests and maintain a zero tolerance policy for any conduct which falls short of the SIAC expectations regarding safety and good sportsmanship," Moore said.
Reporters Linda A. Moore and Brandon Shields contributed to this article.
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