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Big Ten suspends Juwan Howard for rest of regular season

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One day after Michigan men's basketball coach Juwan Howard sparked a brawl by striking an opposing coach in the handshake line, the Big Ten sent a message that such behavior won’t be tolerated.

The league fined Howard $40,000 and suspended him for Michigan's final five games of the regular season, meaning he will be a bystander as the Wolverines try to nail down an NCAA tournament bid.

Howard, who defended his actions after Sunday's game, struck a different tone a day later. In a statement released minutes after the Big Ten revealed his penalty Monday evening, Howard said he now realizes "how unacceptable both my actions and words were, and how they affected so many."

"I am offering my sincerest apology to my players and their families, my staff, my family and the Michigan fans around the world," Howard continued. "I would like to personally apologize to Wisconsin's Assistant Coach [Joe] Krabbenhoft and his family, too.

"Lastly, I speak a lot about being a Michigan man and representing the University of Michigan with class and pride, I did not do that, nor did I set the right example in the right way for my student-athletes. I will learn from my mistake and this mistake will never happen again."

While Howard's penalty is by far the most severe, the Michigan coach wasn't the only participant in Sunday's incident punished. The Big Ten is suspending Michigan forwards Terrance Williams II and Moussa Diabate, and Wisconsin guard Jahcobi Neath for a single game. Wisconsin coach Greg Gard was also assessed a $10,000 fine from the league but will not face suspension.

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren reviewed film of Sunday's altercation and worked with administrators from Michigan and Wisconsin to determine appropriate punishments. Warren said in a statement that he expects "the incident yesterday will provide our coaches and student-athletes with the opportunity to reflect, learn and move forward in a manner that demonstrates decorum and leadership on and off of the court.”

The animosity between Howard and Gard began in the final minute of the Badgers' 77-63 victory on Sunday afternoon in Madison. Howard objected to a timeout that Gard called with 15 seconds remaining and the Badgers in complete control.

When he approached Gard after the game in the handshake line, Howard lowered his mask and said, “I’ll remember that.” Gard responded by grabbing Howard’s right arm in an apparent attempt to keep the Michigan coach from blowing by him before he could explain himself.

As they continued to exchange words, Howard grabbed a fistful of Gard’s shirt, released it and then pointed his index finger in Gard’s face. Players and coaches from both teams separated the two men, but Howard then reengaged and slapped Krabbenhoft in the head with an open hand.

Gard later explained that he called timeout because Wisconsin’s reserves were struggling with Michigan’s pressure defense. The timeout gave the Badgers a full 10 seconds to advance the ball past mid-court instead of the four seconds they otherwise would’ve had.

“I wasn’t going to put my players in that type of situation, having to break a press in four seconds coming in stiff and cold off the bench,” Gard said.

In his postgame news conference, Howard made it clear that he didn’t buy Gard’s explanation. He described the timeout as “not necessary at that moment” and insisted that it “wasn’t fair to our guys.”

Howard at the time also defended himself for striking Krabbenhoft. He said that he reacted after someone from Wisconsin touched him, though he did not specify who did it.

“I think that was very uncalled for, for them to touch me, as we were verbalizing and communicating with one another,” Howard said. “That's what escalated it.”

MADISON, WISCONSIN - FEBRUARY 20: Wisconsin Badgers Assistant Coach Joe Krabbenhoft reacts after a fight breaks out between Wisconsin Badgers and Michigan Wolverines. Joe Krabbenhoft was hit in the head by Michigan Wolverines Head Coach Juwan Howard at Kohl Center on February 20, 2022 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
Michigan coach Juwan Howard was suspended for the rest of the regular season after an incident at the end of their game against Wisconsin on Sunday. (John Fisher/Getty Images)

Wisconsin athletic director Chris McIntosh said in a statement on Monday night that the university will pay Gard's $10,000 fine.

"Needless to say, there is no place in college athletics for what happened at the end of Sunday's game," McIntosh said. "Neither Coach Gard nor his staff had any intent to provoke or incite any of what took place."

Howard's penalty comes at a time when Michigan (14-11, 8-7) is trying to make a late push to secure an NCAA bid. All five of the Wolverines' remaining regular season games are against NCAA tournament contenders, beginning Wednesday at home against Rutgers.

This is not Howard’s first incident with an opposing coach since the former Fab Five standout returned to his alma mater in 2019. It’s been less than a year since Howard was ejected from a Big Ten tournament game and had to be restrained by his assistant coaches after a heated argument with then-Maryland coach Mark Turgeon.

That time, Howard received no penalty from Michigan or the Big Ten. This time, Howard wasn’t so fortunate. And Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel hinted that Howard may not get another chance.

"Today's disciplinary actions underscore the seriousness with which we take the incident that unfolded on Sunday," Manuel said in a statement. "Simply put, there is no room at U-M for the behavior we saw."