Jeff Jacobs column when Syracuse's Nicole Michael was accused of tripping Geno Auriemma.
Breakdowns in athletic decorum, whether by male or female, always cause this sort of consternation. A loss of self-control inevitably leads to finger-pointing. Trust me on this folks. I covered the NHL for 20 years.
Remember this. It's never my team's fault. It's usually the other team's fault. And it's always the fault of the officiating. So whatever I argue here, I'm quite sure some folks will argue otherwise.
The scoreboard is fact: UConn 107, Syracuse 53.
The stat sheet is fact: Maya Moore, who scored a career-high 40 points, stayed in the game until 4:20 remained and the Huskies had run up a 54-point lead.
Yet an afternoon that started with North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell addressing whether there is a big gap between No. 1 UConn and the rest of the country - "We'll just have to see" - ended with a mission to close the gap between accusation and reality.
As soon as the handshake line ended Saturday e-mails started arriving: Nicole Michael tripped Geno Auriemma! It was vicious! It's an outrage! She must be punished! Syracuse played like a bunch of thugs! . . .
OK, I admit it. This led me to check out the Boneyard, where similar emotions were being vented.
By this point, the postgame press conferences already had taken place. Jim Clark, a career prosecutor and correspondent for "Full Court Press," acted much more like judge and jury instead of journalist as he leaned hard into Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman.
"That was about as bush-league as I've seen in covering basketball in the Big East for 12 years," Clark said. "I've never seen a player physically contact a coach before and attempt to trip him. Do you have an answer for that?"
"She tripped a coach?" Hillsman said.
"Yes, she did," Clark said.
"Sir, let me say this," Hillsman said. "You and I are not going to sit back here and debate this. I didn't see it."
If there's physical contact between a college coach and student athlete, there should be a full accounting. In my mind, this is pretty serious business. The facts must be gathered. Some sort of context must be established. Then discipline must be determined.
The truth only counts for everything. That's why I went to WTIC, Ch. 61, and the guys in sports were kind enough to show me the video. I watched it 20 times. Slow motion. Stop motion.
I saw Auriemma mouth off, I mean really mouth off at Michael as they passed in the handshake line. The camera went to Auriemma, so I didn't see what Michael may have said in response. I did see Auriemma start back at Michael and assistant coach Shea Ralph intercept him.
And this is what else I saw. As the handshake lines ended and both passed again, Michael turned toward Auriemma. She looked as if she might get in his grill. Auriemma didn't look at her as he walked past. He tripped on her sneaker. Honest to God, I can't say for sure if she tripped him on purpose, but I'd guess no. However, she positioned herself to cause a problem, and she did.
There was more yapping. Renee Montgomery led a group of UConn players in leading Geno out of harm's way. A group from Syracuse did the same with Michael.
Jan. 18, 2009: Incident Makes For A Tangled Feat
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