Xavier overreacts by punishing student section for role in brawl

UPDATE: Xavier backtracked on its plan to hold mandatory "reflection sessions" for students who attended last month's Crosstown Shootout, announcing Friday it will instead invite its student body to engage in a Jan. 10 discussion with Coach Chris Mack and school administrators. Students who do not attend the event will not be punished.

"Based on feedback about the reflection sessions from students, both those who received the Dean of Students' message and those who learned of it, as well as feedback from student leadership, it became clear we need to move forward on a different path," Xavier's release reads.  "In collaboration, student leadership and Xavier administration decided on a new direction."

Credit Xavier for having the common sense to alter its policy even if it took a flurry of student backlash to make it happen. Read below for my original post that explains why the reflection sessions were an overreaction in the first place.

Suspensions to a trio of its top players won't be the only penalty Xavier receives for its role in last month's wild benches-clearing brawl with city rival Cincinnati.

Believe it or not, the school also plans to punish students who attended the game because of the incident.

Members of Xavier's student section who attended the Crosstown Shootout have been warned they will be barred from going to future games this season if they do not attend a "reflection session" designed to promote better crowd behavior. In a letter to the student body, Xavier Dean of Students Luther Smith said student section members will have to prove they attended one of three hour-long sessions next week by swiping their university card as they leave.

"The student section contributed to the hostile atmosphere that charged the arena with unsportsmanlike conduct through unacceptable chanting, verbal expletives, and objects being thrown onto the arena floor," Smith wrote. "As a Jesuit, Catholic university, the behaviors demonstrated are not becoming of its students and is in conflict with the mission, values, and standards of Xavier University."

It's understandable Xavier wants to take measures to avoid future incidents at basketball games, but punishing its fan base in this manner seems like overkill.

From a PR perspective, it's pouring gasoline on a fire that has already been contained by announcing this controversial punishment almost four weeks after the brawl. And from a basketball perspective, there's a good chance this could ruin the atmosphere at the Cintas Center at a time when a Muskteteers team on the verge of a historic collapse needs all the home-court advantage it can get.

Xavier won its first eight games this season, but it has lost five of six since the brawl, including Wednesday night's 80-70 upset at LaSalle to start Atlantic 10 play. Will students be motivated enough to spend an hour being lectured on crowd behavior in order to have the chance to support the struggling Musketeers the rest of the season? Some surely will. Many probably will not.

Xavier coach Chris Mack already had enough obstacles to overcome in finding a way to get the Musketeers back on track. Now his own administration has given him another one in an overzealous quest to protect the school's image.

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