Saturday was the first time I’ve ever been ashamed of a Kentucky team.
Over my thirty-or-so years as a fan, there have been times I’ve been angry, upset, or disappointed in teams, yes; but Jordan Jones, Denzil Ware, and, to some extent, Mark Stoops’ actions during Saturday’s game left me so disgusted I needed a cooling off period before writing about it. Even though the past 48 hours have included a feel-good basketball win and more drama in Knoxville than we could ever dream of, I’m still mad. Never before has a Kentucky team done something to make me say, ‘You know what? If this is what it’s going to be like, I don’t want any part of it.’ I can take being outmatched, I can take bad breaks or even bad luck, but I can’t take bad behavior.
Jones’ fight with Lamar Jackson wasn’t even the worst part of Saturday, although it was pretty bad. We can argue for hours over who started it — Jones butted Jackson’s shoulder, prompting the shove that really got it going — but Jones took it too far when he went for Lamar around the middle after being knocked down by Malik Williams; that turned what should have ended as a shove fest into an all-out on the ground brawl. The fact that Jones’ teammates rushed in sequester him, with Josh Allen going as far to pull Jackson out of the melee, tells you all you need to know: Jones cannot control his temper, and his teammates know it.
But again, this was not the worst part. While all of that was going on, Denzil Ware, a team leader, pushed Louisville offensive lineman Geron Christian with a trash can. An actual trash can.
My view of the fight.. pic.twitter.com/ybx7YDJqVR
— Michael Sax (@mash24) November 26, 2017
Obviously, a plastic trash can wasn’t going to do any physical harm to a giant man dressed in pads and a helmet, but the act itself is, for lack of a better word, trashy, and the fact that Ware seemed to show no remorse afterwards, joking about it on Twitter, is telling. Simply put, as a Kentucky fan, it’s hard to swallow behavior we’re used to seeing from Louisville, and it’s impossible to defend it when we’ve spent hours mocking it from the other side. Keep in mind, Jones and Ware aren’t freshmen. They’re juniors and they should know better, and if they don’t, their coach definitely should, which brings me to my next point, the most egregious of all.
Both Lamar Jackson and Jordan Jones should have been ejected from the game for fighting. Instead, they were given unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. While Jackson held his composure throughout the rest of the game, Jones did not. Jones shoved Lamar Thomas for slapping hands and talking to Jackson after the fight, got back-to-back unnecessary roughness penalties in the third quarter, and was essentially a side show, pacing the sidelines and shouting at coaches in the huddle. Jones was a major distraction, but instead of putting an end to it and sending him to the locker room, Mark Stoops kept him in the game.
Afterwards, Stoops said Jones’ conduct bothered him “to the core” and he doesn’t want it to represent the university, but actions speak louder than words. Instead of setting an example to the rest of the team that this type of behavior wouldn’t be tolerated, Stoops showed them that it would. Even though he described Jones’ behavior as “selfish,” keeping Jones out there was the most selfish act of all. Maybe Nick Haynes was trying to tell us something on Friday night. Lack of discipline early on in a coach’s tenure is forgivable; in year five, it’s alarming.
I am far from an insider as to what’s going on with this program; however, as a fan, when the team I love starts acting like punks, I can’t just sit idly by. Losing to Louisville is bad enough, but losing like that? That’s just salt in the wound.