Last night, Duke’s Grayson Allen appeared to intentionally trip an opponent for the second time in less than 3 weeks. On February 8, Allen appeared to trip a Louisville player and was whistled for a flagrant foul. Then last night he appeared to trip Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes during the Blue Devils 80-65 win on Thursday.
ESPN reported that ACC senior associate commissioner Paul Brazeau, said that the conference will review the tripping incident.
Asked what jurisdiction the ACC could have to discipline Allen if necessary, Brazeau said schools and conferences can give private or public reprimands and, if warranted, a suspension.
Where exactly does that jurisdiction come from, and what if any precedent is there for a player to be suspended for tripping an opponent?
First, Brazeau is absolutely correct. The ACC has the authority to suspend Grayson Allen. The ACC Constitution and Bylaws grants Commissioner John Swofford the authority to discipline players for conduct which violates the Conference’s Sportsmanlike Policy.[i] Specifically, Article I of the Bylaws provides:
Unsportsmanlike conduct, when demonstrated by any party associated with a member institution, will not be tolerated and may subject the individual to disciplinary action. The member institution with which the individual is associated may also be subject to disciplinary action if it is found that the institution’s actions, or failure to act, substantially contributed to the individual’s misconduct.
The Conference’s policies and powers regarding discipline for unsportsmanlike conduct is more specifically defined by the Sportsmanlike Policy which states that:
Whenever the Commissioner concludes after a reasonable investigation that there has been a violation of the unsportsmanlike conduct regulation, the Commissioner shall impose such penalty deemed appropriate by first giving notice to the individual and the institution. The Commissioner will provide the institution the time and opportunity that the Commissioner considers reasonable to take action and may adopt that action as Conference action if he or she deems appropriate.
The Policy further states that acts which are considered to violate the policy include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Any person who strikes or physically abuses an official, opposing coach, player or spectator;
- Any person who intentionally incites participants or spectators to violent or abusive action;
- Any person who uses profanity, vulgarity, taunts, ridicules or makes obscene gestures;
- Any person who publicly criticizes any game official, conference personnel, a member institution or institutional personnel;
- Any person who engages in negative recruiting by making statements which are unduly derogatory of another institution or its personnel to a prospective student-athlete, parents, high school coach, or other person interested in the prospective student-athlete;
- Any person who enters the competing area for an unsportsmanlike purpose;
- Any other act of unsportsmanlike conduct not specifically prescribed.
Grayson Allen’s actions arguably could be construed as striking an opposing player under the first example, but certainly falls in the catchall “any other act of unsportsmanlike conduct.”
In case you are a Duke fan and are thinking of arguing, “hey, wait a minute, Grayson never agreed to these rules.” The students are specifically given a copy of the Sportsmanlike Policy at a squad meeting held at the beginning of each year and accept its terms pursuant to NCAA rules governing the student-athlete statement. So that argument won’t work.
So, clearly the ACC or Duke have the authority to suspend Grayson for the tripping incidents. But, will they? The move would certainly not be unprecedented. Earlier this season, the American Athletic Conference suspended Memphis’ Shaq Goodwin one game for violating the league’s sportsmanship code after he tripped a South Carolina player.
Similarly, the Mountain West suspended a Wyoming basketball player one game for accumulated violations of the Mountain West’s sportsmanship policy. And, Jamal Reid, was suspended 4 games this year by Oregon State for tripping a referee. In Reid’s case, the school worked in close conjunction with the Pac-12 which reviewed and accepted the discipline.
Based on the ACC’s policies and the precedent listed above, expect Duke to work with the ACC to determine the appropriate sanction – most likely a one game suspension.[ii]
[i] The latest publicly available version of the ACC Constitution and Bylaws in the 2013-14 version. However, the Sportsmanlike Policy provided in NC State’s 2015-16 Student Handbook is identical to the one in the older ACC Constitution.
[ii] If I was a betting man, and I am, I would put the odds of a one-game suspension at about 99% and the odds of a 2+ game suspension around 20%.