C-USA officials investigating what happened after Memphis-UAB game
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Conference USA officials said Sunday they were investigating what happened after top-ranked Memphis' 79-78 victory over UAB in Birmingham, where the Tigers were showered with debris after avoiding an upset.
Cups, water bottles and pompoms were thrown by fans in the UAB student section as the Tigers were being escorted off the court toward their dressing room Saturday night.
"We are currently in the process of gathering all the information about the actions occurring at the conclusion of Saturday night's Memphis-UAB game," the league said in a statement. "We have been in contact with administrators at both UAB and Memphis.
"Sportsmanship and the well-being of our student-athletes, staff and fans are among our highest priorities."
The league did not have a timetable on any decision or possible punishment.
"It was just a series of events that all kind of happened at the same time," Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson told The Memphis Commercial Appeal. "I'm not going to be on the phone and tell them something like that would never happen at Memphis because it could. It could happen anywhere. None of us condone it, and they were apologetic. I received some e-mails from our fans; they were very upset, and I tried to convey the same message to them."
UAB athletics director Brian Mackin told The Birmingham News he discussed the situation with Memphis officials after the game.
"I told them I am very sorry this happened," Mackin said. "They were very complimentary and comfortable with the security provided. They both thought the atmosphere of the game was one of the best they've been around in a long time."
Mackin also addressed the fan's conduct.
"The students' and the fans' unsportsmanlike conduct is inexcusable and is never appropriate," he told the Birmingham paper. "We take what happened very seriously."
The Southeastern Conference fined Vanderbilt $25,000 in February 2007, when students rushed the court after upsetting then-No. 1 Florida in the school's second violation of the league's sportsmanship policy.
Officials for Memphis and UAB did not immediately return telephone messages left by The Associated Press on Sunday afternoon. Memphis coach John Calipari said after the game he expected such a sold-out environment to be heated.
"Students do that. What, do you expect the students to be happy? They were into it, and all I told our guys was just get off the floor. You don't deal with it. You think they're going to kiss you on the lips? You just beat them in a tough, hard game," Calipari said.
Memphis (25-0) remained perfect by outscoring UAB 9-1 in the final 1:23. Robert Vaden missed an off-balance 3-pointer, and Lawrence Kinnard's shot in the paint went in. A few of the Tigers walked toward the other end and appeared to be talking back to fans who crowded the end of the court.
Birmingham police officers held onto several Tigers as they walked off the court and toward their dressing room.
Officials were busy reviewing the replay, which showed the shot left his hands after the final second had ticked off the clock.
The Associated Press contributed this report.