By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – In the wake of the ugly incident that occurred in the post-game handshake line following Michigan’s loss at Wisconsin on Sunday, it now is being suggested to not shake hands anymore.
It’s easy to feel that way in the heat of the moment, and when emotions still are high, but it also seems to be an over-reaction to an isolated incident.
Sunday’s incident in which Michigan head coach Juwan Howard punched Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft on the side of his face with an open hand could’ve easily been avoided if both head coaches had just used more common sense, and behaved in a more mature and professional manner.
Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard deserves blame for initiating the altercation by stepping in the path of Howard, and by making contact with Howard, who had made it abundantly clear that he didn’t want to discuss the matter with Gard in the handshake line.
Gard should’ve let Howard pass by and then reach out to him in private to explain why he called a timeout in the final seconds. The incident probably wouldn’t have escalated if Gard had just let Howard walk past him in the handshake line.
However, Gard’s behavior certainly doesn’t excuse what Howard did.
To have thrown a punch, open-handed or not, Howard crossed the line of acceptable behavior and he should now face a lengthy suspension at the least.
Gard should also be reprimanded for causing the incident to escalate.
Blame and punish the people that behaved poorly, coaches and players, but don’t blame the long-standing tradition of shaking hands for Sunday’s incident.
Greg Gard should not have called a timeout with his team leading by double figures in the closing seconds.
Gard also should not have put his hands on Howard, while Krabbenhoft should’ve tried to have kept the incident from escalating, but he did just the opposite.
And then neither head coach offered an apology during his post-game press conference.
The lack of professionalism, maturity and accountability on both sides was astonishing and disturbing.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo addressed the incident on Monday with the media and he disagrees with ending the tradition of shaking hands.
Izzo said you have to “man up” and congratulate someone “who kicked your butt.”
And he’s right.
Just because two head coaches handled a situation poorly doesn’t mean that it’s too risky and dangerous to shake hands after a game.
“Those are the moments when I just think you learn the most about people,” Izzo said Monday.
Instead of ending the handshake line, schools need to reinforce what they stand for and what they represent.
And though emotions are extremely high after a game, it still isn’t asking a lot for players and coaches to be mature enough to shake hands, although Iowa coach Fran McCaffery doesn’t see it that way.
He would prefer to not have the handshake line after games and he explained why on Monday.
“What I don’t think people realize, there’s a lot of conversation that goes on between the coaches and the players before and after the game.,” Fran McCaffery said. “If you want to give somebody a hug, you can. If you want to spend time with somebody, you can. It doesn’t have to be forced, and it doesn’t have to be right at that moment.
“A lot of things happen throughout the course of games. A lot of intensity, a lot of stuff said. So you might have an issue, and there has been some. I think you just move on.”
McCaffery brings up some good points, and he has the benefit of speaking from experience. He has participated in hundreds of post-game handshake lines, but he also has avoided shaking hands after a few games, including at Iowa, due to concerns about a possible altercation breaking out.
“It just takes one person to say something, and everybody is right on top of each other,” Fran McCaffery said. “You all know how intense we are, the pressures on the players, the coaches. A lot of stuff is said. A lot of stuff was said to our team at Ohio State. Not by them, by the fans. You deal with it.
“I have pulled my team off the floor before. You all have seen that. And I have been commended by my administration at two different places for doing that. My main concern is the health and welfare of our guys.”
There are valid points to both side of this argument, but it’s also kind of disappointing and discouraging to think that showing good sportsmanship is asking too much from some adults.
Howard and Gard are supposed to set the right examples as leaders of young men, but they both failed to do that on Sunday, especially Howard.
Instead of walking away from this problem, it would make more sense to try and solve it.
Howard has to learn to control his temper, while Gard has to learn when to just walk away.
Again, blame the people who caused the incident to escalate.
Don’t blame a tradition that is meant to promote sportsmanship.