After a flurry of tweets questioning why Maryland center Diamond Stone wasn't ejected from Saturday's 70-57 home loss to Wisconsin was followed by a flurry of apologetic phone calls to those associated with Badgers forward Vitto Brown, Terps coach Mark Turgeon suspended his star freshman center Monday.
The decision to suspend Stone for Thursday's road game at Minnesota was left up to Turgeon, though fully supported by the Big Ten. It marks the first time in Turgeon's five seasons in College Park that he suspended one of his players for an altercation with an opposing player.
With a few seconds left in the first half and the then-No. 2 Terps trailing by 16 points after going nearly 11 minutes without a basket, Stone and Brown became entangled trying to control a missed shot by Maryland. The two fell to the floor behind the baseline, with Stone on top of Brown.
As he was getting up, Stone shoved Brown's head into the floor. Several of Brown's teammates, including freshman forward Charlie Thomas (River Hill), rushed toward Stone. Stone was hit with a flagrant contact technical foul, while Thomas was assessed a technical for making an inappropriate comment to Stone.
In a statement released by the Maryland athletic department, Stone said, "I want to apologize to Vitto Brown and the Wisconsin basketball team for my unacceptable behavior during Saturday's game. I regret that I let the emotions of the game get the best of me. I let my team down and I accept full responsibility for my actions."
In the same statement, Turgeon said, "Diamond's conduct during Saturday's game was a poor representation of the standards that we have established as a program at the University of Maryland. I have talked with Diamond and he realizes he made a mistake. He felt very badly about what happened and will learn from this experience. I want to sincerely apologize to Vitto Brown and [Wisconsin interim head coach] Greg Gard for what transpired Saturday."
According to an athletic department source, Stone and Turgeon each called Brown to offer their apologies. Turgeon also called Gard, who had downplayed the incident after the game. Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson also made calls to his counterpart in Madison, Barry Alvarez, as well as to Brown's parents.
Brown, who scored a career-high 21 points against the Terps on Saturday, seemed to be ready to move on and said he didn't hold anything against Stone after getting the phone call.
"You could sense the sincerity in his voice," Brown, who is a junior, told reporters Monday in Madison. "He's young, he's a freshman in a big role at a big university, so I understand that the emotions can get to you. So it's no big deal for me."
As has been a consistent policy under Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, in particular when a player has not been ejected from the game, the league left it up to Maryland to take action.
In a statement released by the Big Ten on Monday, the league said it "agrees with Maryland's suspension of men's basketball player Diamond Stone for violating the Big Ten Sportsmanship Policy during a game against Wisconsin on Saturday, Feb. 13. The conference also publicly reprimands Stone for his actions."
According to the release, "Stone's actions were in violation of Big Ten Conference Agreement 10.01, which states in part that 'The Big Ten Conference expects all contests involving a member institution to be conducted without compromise to any fundamental element of sportsmanship. Such fundamental elements include integrity of competition, civility toward all, and respect, particularly toward opponents and officials.'"
ESPN and Big Ten Network analyst Dan Dakich, who played and later coached at Indiana, said he believes it has long been the league's policy to let teams police themselves. Recalling when the league suggested that Indiana suspend Bob Knight for kicking his son, Pat, during a game, "Coach Knight was mad at Indiana because they should have stood up to the Big Ten."
Dakich, who was one of several to tweet that Stone should have been ejected immediately from the game, said in an interview Monday night that he wasn't surprised that Maryland suspended Stone. Dakich said the apology calls to Brown and others "was a little bit overkill … but that's the world we live in. That's just covering your [butt], make sure everybody stays happy."
Dakich added that if Stone had been ejected from the game by officials, "You don't even worry about suspending him. When they didn't kick it out, that put it in the hands of the Big Ten and Maryland's administration. It's not a good thing."
Stone is Maryland's leading shot-blocker and tied for fourth overall in the Big Ten (1.7 a game) as well as his team's second-leading scorer (12.8) behind sophomore guard Melo Trimble and third-leading rebounder (5.4) behind junior forward Robert Carter Jr. and senior forward Jake Layman.
Stone had started the last six games after starting three earlier in the season. Junior Damonte Dodd, who started 31 games last season and had a career-high 12 rebounds, nine points and three blocked shots against Minnesota last season, is expected to start for the Terps (22-4, 10-3), who dropped from second to sixth after the loss.
Dakich said a suspension was certainly in order for one big reason.
"If you're going to get mad that somebody was too physical with you underneath, then stay outside, stay where the guards stay and don't be a big guy," he said. "You're frustrated, you're getting your brains beat out at home, but the bottom line is that he did it to a defenseless guy."