Crosstown Brawl: One Year Later

December 10, 2011. It is the day of the 79th annual Crosstown Shootout. The Cincinnati Bearcats are walking into a loud and rambunctious Cintas Center; the home of the eighth-ranked Xavier Musketeers. The annual matchup between the two rivals began in 1928 when the teams would play twice a year. It wasn’t until 1958 that the game became a once-a-year spectacle. A dominant performance by the Musketeers was blemished by what happened with 9.4 seconds left in the game. The week leading up to the game, UC’s redshirt sophomore Sean Kilpatrick was asked on a radio show if Xavier standout, Tu Holloway, would start for UC’s team. Kilpatrick replied “With the players on our team – probably not.” From tip-off, the game had a sense of intensity and the ominous feeling that something was about to happen. Xavier had a nine point lead going into halftime, but then junior guard Mark Lyons took it into his hands. Before walking off the court, Lyons exchanged some words with Freshman Ge’Lawn Guyn and the rest of the UC bench. Guyn reacted by getting in Lyons’ face. The two players were separated by coaches and officials and forced into the locker rooms. In the second half, Xavier continued with its domination of UC and the game soon became out of reach. However, rough fouls and aggressive play was the storyline of the second half. The game was in the bag for the Musketeers. They had a 76-53 lead with only ten seconds left. Dion Dixon brought the ball down the court and shot a desperation three and that hit only air. Then, it happened. While Dixon shot the three, Lyons and Guyn once again got in each other’s faces. This time, there was no stopping what happened next. With the built up emotions and anger, the brawl ensued. Xavier guard Dez Wells, seeing Guyn and Lyons in each other’s faces once again, pushed Guyn right in front of the UC bench, causing both benches to clear. Holloway, too, found himself in the center of the brawl. Time stopped and the game was called with 9.4 seconds as the fight escalated out of control. UC big man and Cincinnati native Yancy Gates was in the middle of this entire brawl. He laid the famous punched that dropped Xavier center Kenny Frease. To add insult to injury, UC’s back-up center Cheikh Mbodj stepped on Frease before he could escape the brawl. Lyons and Guyn would continue to push and throw punches until they were separated by coaches and teammates. Junior Bearcat fan Adam Gardner remembers witnessing the brawl. “I didn’t know what to think. Watching the game I knew the tensions were high, but I didn’t expect it to get that bad. I didn’t truly realize how bad it was until I started reading Twitter. Both teams were at fault. Kilpatrick disrespected Tu Holloway a little on the radio, but he was only saying that because he believed in his own teammates. The taunting from the Xavier players, however, was uncalled for. They were playing like gangsters and out for blood instead of taking care of business.” Xavier fan Logan Steiner agrees. “It was uncalled for,” Steiner said. “But everyone saw it coming after Kilpatrick’s comments about Holloway earlier in the week. For when the brawl was going on, I couldn’t even fathom what I was seeing.” The fact that both teams continued to stay on the court did not make the situation any better. However, at the Cintas Center, the teams share the same hallway leading to their respective locker rooms. In order to avoid another fight, both coaches made sure that their teams were under control before they left the court. After all was said and done, both teams finally left the court and walked into every news outlet in the country. The infamous brawl was on ESPN, Fox News and even E! TV and the viral videos spread like wildfire. Mick Cronin, the Bearcats head coach, was furious in the postgame interviews. “It’s a complete embarrassment. Toughness is doing the right thing,” said Cronin. “You take your a**-whipping and go home. If my players don’t act the right way, they will never play another game at Cincinnati.” Cronin went on to say that he had all the players take off their uniforms (even physically taking some of theirs off) and that they wouldn’t put it back on until they realized how lucky and blessed they were to even be playing collegiate sports. On the other side, Chris Mack, of Xavier had some of his own words to say. “I’m not in a position to be a decision maker,” said Mack. “We’ll address the situation and see what our conference feels is necessary. The bigger thing is that our kids in this situation need to learn how to handle themselves and not let that happen again. No one wanted the game to end like that. We wanted to have our seniors celebrate the Crosstown Shootout.” Lyons after the game: “If somebody put their hands in your face or tries to do something to you, where we are from, we’re going to do something about it. We are not going to sit there and get our faces beaten in by someone like Yancy Gates. We don’t let that happen.” Tu Holloway also had some words after the game. “That’s what you’re going to see from Xavier and Cincinnati,” Holloway said. “We got disrespected a little bit before the game, guys calling us out. We’re a tougher team. We’re grown men over here. We’ve got a whole bunch of gangsters in the locker room — not thugs, but tough guys on the court. And we went out there and zipped them up at the end of the game. People have to understand that this is like Duke-Carolina and I don’t think people get that.” “Mack is an idiot to let Lyons and Holloway speak to the media after the game,” says Gardner. “He turned a bad situation worse and embarrassed the city. Cronin, on the other hand, was fantastic and I gained a lot of respect for him. I do believe Yancy deserved more of a suspension.” In the days that followed, as expected, suspensions were handed out to both teams. The Bearcats suspended senior Gates for six games for the devastating blow he laid on Xavier’s center Frease. Junior Mbodj and freshman Octavius Ellis also received six games each while freshman Guyn for one game. Xavier suspended freshman Wells and walk-on Landen Amos for four games for their participation in the brawl. Junior guard Mark Lyons was suspended for two games and senior guard Holloway for one game. Cronin had a mission for the players that had been suspended. “Before any of them put a uniform back on they will apologize and that’s just the first step before putting the uniform back on,” said Cronin. “Just because the press release says what it says that doesn’t mean they’re all back. They’re going to sit in front of a camera and say how sorry they are and how grateful they are for getting a second chance. If I don’t believe it then they won’t be on the team — and if they don’t demonstrate that they won’t ever put on a jersey again – period.” With what had happened in the 79th annual Crosstown Shootout, many questioned if the storied rivalry would even continue. However, in May of this year, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the game will be continued at a neutral site and under a new name. The Crosstown Classic will be played at the US Bank Arena downtown for the next two years. After that, the rivalry will be reevaluated to see if can once again return to the universities. “I think the changes are pointless,” says Gardner. “The problem wasn’t the venue or the fans; it was the thugs on the court. Now that most of the instigators are gone, what’s the point? US Bank Arena is a dump, even if it holds more fans. Now the UC and XU students will be together might not turn out well.” “The name change is equally stupid,” Gardner continued. “To me it will always be the Shootout. This will be the third straight year I will be attending the Shootout and supporting my Bearcats.” Steiner agrees. “The changes will cause even more fights, not just on the court, but in the stands,” he said. “The change of venue is uncalled for because it takes away that home court advantage and anger the fans. The name change to ‘Crosstown Classic’ because ‘Shootout’ promoted gang violence is unnecessary and you can’t change tradition like the home court advantage point.” The 80th or 1st Annual Crosstown Classic is scheduled to be played on December 19, 2012 at the US Bank Arena in downtown Cincinnati. The UC Bearcats will be the “home” team since it would have been their turn to host the event. ESPN will once again be in attendance and the game will be broadcast nation-wide. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the brawl will be a major storyline the days leading up to and the day of the game.