School chancellors apologize for postgame player brawl

Updated: September 26, 2007, 4:47 PM ET
Associated Press

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The chancellors of North Carolina Central and North Carolina A&T apologized to each other Wednesday, four days after their football teams brawled after a game.

North Carolina A&T chancellor Stanley F. Battle said one unidentified Aggies player was suspended for two games for his role in last Saturday's brawl. One Eagles player already has been suspended for this week's game.

"This has taken on a life of its own," Battle said during a joint news conference on the A&T campus.

"It hurts me for two African-American males to stand before you and talk about a fight, because we're bigger than that," he added. "However, when our students make mistakes, we deal with it. We don't run away. We don't don't hide. We deal with it appropriately."

N.C. Central chancellor Charlie Nelms said the schools have not decided whether they will play their scheduled game next August in Durham after the schools' heated in-state rivalry got nasty during an on-field, 90-second fight that was halted by police who used pepper spray.

"We're here to say that behavior is wrong, we're not going to tolerate it and we're committed to working collaboratively to make sure that ... this never happens again," Nelms said.

The fight broke out shortly after N.C. Central intercepted a pass to seal the 27-22 victory and the Eagles stormed the field and jumped on the A&T logo, prompting the Aggies to confront them.

"Who started the fight is not the central issue," Nelms said. "We both agree it was wrong."

Coaches were unable to stop the melee, and after several minutes at least one police officer from Central used pepper spray to break it up. The schools said nobody was hurt.

"We will also look at what led up to it and try to make an intelligent decision," Battle said. "But I will not bury any of my kids. I will not give up on them because they've made a mistake."

Both chancellors said they will continue to review videotapes of the incident and are talking to coaches, players and spectators as part of their investigation, and further punishments could follow. Battle said there was no timetable for completing the probe.

"We're not going to rush," Battle said. "Neither one of us are under any pressure whatsoever to rush. Clearly, this is extremely important to our institutions, and we want to make sure it never happens again. So when we decide, we need to really take some time to look at appropriate steps, protocol, lines of engagement."

The game was billed as the return of a rivalry between two historically black schools that dates back to 1924. It was the teams' first meeting since N.C. Central beat A&T 23-22 in the 2005.

N.C. Central is playing its first season in Division I as an independent after moving up from Division II. A&T is a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference of Division I's Championship Subdivision.

The Eagles have expressed interest in joining the MEAC, the league they helped found in the 1970s. They left the conference when it was reclassified into Division I.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press