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Opinion

Fallen eagles

Basketball's Pat Riley once remarked that "it's what you get from basketball games you lose that is extremely important." Last Saturday's brawl at Coppin State University proves the former NBA head coach and Miami Heat executive was on to something.

For those who missed it, Coppin State's women's basketball team lost a hard-fought contest to the visiting North Carolina A&T Aggies, 75-74, on Saturday at the university's Physical Education Complex. It was a tough loss by any standard (the Eagles had lead by 15 points earlier in the game), and the Aggies are a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference rival.

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But what happened next was inexcusable. Just after the teams finished the customary post-game handshakes, fists were thrown. The action reportedly spread across the court, and officials had to intervene to break the skirmishes up.

According to The Sun's Ken Murray, the fight left at least two players bloodied, Aggies senior Jaleesa Sams and Eagles freshman Larrisa Carter, who needed medical attention for a cut on her arm.

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Coppin Director of Athletics Derrick Ramsey offered what seemed like just the right reaction (a mixture of disappointment and alarm) after the game, telling Mr. Murray that this is "not what we teach here…this is not what Coppin is about."

"This is an embarrassing moment for our institution, for my athletic program. This will not be tolerated."

Mr. Ramsey and Head Coach Derek Brown appeared to be speaking from the same page about the incident over the weekend. Coach Brown called it "embarrassing to my school, to my athletic director and to my president."

Coppin State has historically played a vital role for urban Baltimore, providing opportunities for young people who might not otherwise have gone to college. But it's low graduation rate (the worst of any Maryland school) has long been a concern. Fights breaking out on the basketball court do little to enhance the university's reputation.

One can only imagine if this had happened in College Park the amount of media coverage it would have received, not just in Maryland but across the country. Yet so far the incident has gotten little mention in the press even in Baltimore, perhaps another sign that neither women's athletics nor Coppin State are given the attention they deserve.

According to Coppin State's own rules, student athletes are expected to demonstrate respect for their fellow athletes and conduct themselves in a manner that shows "impeccable sportsmanship."

On Monday, Mr. Ramsey said that after reviewing the film and meeting with Coach Brown he decided to suspend three of his players, Jeanine Manley, Leola Spotwood and Crystal Whittington, for last night's game against Norfolk State University.

Such swift and decisive action is a credit to the school. As Mr. Ramsey observed, the young women who wear a jersey represent something "a lot bigger than just their names." That's a fitting lesson not just for the three players involved but for their fellow students and a community that has often struggled with violence.


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