Commentary

Bad decision, harsher price

Updated: September 24, 2009, 4:06 PM ET
By Dick Vitale

I was surprised when I received a phone call from Stephen Montemayor of the University of Kansas school newspaper. I figured he wanted to talk about the Jayhawks being my pick as number one entering the basketball season.

Wrong.

He wanted to talk about the problems going on in Lawrence. There were several altercations between the Jayhawks men's basketball and football teams.

Wow, the football team has done a phenomenal job over the past few years. They have become an outstanding program in the Big 12 under Mark Mangino. We know about the school's success in basketball. Football has really elevated itself.

I thought the call would be a positive. It wasn't. He asked about my thoughts about what should be done in this situation with both programs fighting.

My initial reaction was, if it was an isolated event between a player or two, they would settle it. I was told about multiple brawls in a span of less than 24 hours. I was asked if this could hurt recruiting.

I said, "no way." The school is outstanding and there is so much history and tradition. Both Bill Self and Mark Mangino have been terrific coaches. The athletic director, Lew Perkins, is one of the best in the business. They have a phenomenal athletic administration and they sell Kansas in a positive way.

Kids will decide on their education and their athletic teams based on a lot of factors. These isolated incidents should have a very minimal impact on their choices.

That said, people have to understand that incidents like this can be dangerous and cooler heads have to prevail. Perkins, Self, Mangino and student athletes met and a statement was issued, saying this situation had been resolved. I certainly hope so.

This is all about showing maturity and decision making. The senseless moment, based on emotion, could have led to a serious injury. Tyshawn Taylor did suffer a dislocated finger that will likely sideline him for 3-4 weeks prior to the season.

These brawls could have led to tragedy. What if one of these athletes threw a punch, knocking someone down, and the combatant hit his head on the ground? What if someone was killed in the fight?

An event like this could have been life-changing. These are big, physical individuals throwing punches. It could have been an accident if someone suffered more serious injuries, but the ramifications could have led to jail time. People think that something serious can't happen. Oh really? It could have led to a felony and changed the life of a student-athlete.

Life is all about decisions. When you make good decisions, positive things happen. When you make a bad decision, you can pay a harsh price. I talk about that in speeches all the time.

I know Self very well. He will get his athletes to understand their responsibility and accountability. Student athletes have to understand that an incident like this can give their school a black eye, and that they have a responsibility when they represent this institution.

Hopefully this will not happen again. Perkins does a great job and the school will get past this. I believe the student athletes will learn from this. There cannot be a repeat of this.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.