Baseball brawl brings bevy of bad broadcasts
The old saying goes that any publicity is good publicity, but in this case university officials may disagree with that notion.
UALR and UCA’s baseball teams garnered media attention for a dugout-clearing brawl on April 2 at the University of Central Arkansas’ Bear Stadium.
Not only did the game receive in-state coverage on KATV and KTHV nightly newscasts, but it also caught the national attention of ESPN and has been widely viewed via internet feeds.
The cause of all the attention? In the 10th inning of the game between the UALR Trojans and UCA Bears, the head coaches from both teams had a heated exchange on the field that led to a close face-to-face argument. When UCA assistant coach Trent Kline joined in, Coach Norwood was knocked down and the UALR team ran to his defense. This was followed by the UCA bench and about a minute of mayhem. It took about another minute for the teams to be separated.
The fact that UCA won the game 5-4 after UALR led 4-0 was mostly a side note to the fight and its aftermath. The incident led to the suspension of eight individuals for varying lengths of time. Four players from UALR were suspended for at least four games each. Three players and the assistant coach from UCA were suspended for at least four games. Additionally UCA head coach Allen Gum suspended himself for a game, according to his statement.
Both coaches gave their obligatory damage-control statements in the days following the incident. UALR head coach Scott Norwood delivered his message a day after the game and Gum followed with his own the following day. The announcement of the suspensions took place in the time between the two coach’s statements.
In a press conference that took place in front of several members of the local media outlets and UALR’s Communications Director Judy Williams (Athletic Director Chris Peterson was away dealing with family matters), Coach Norwood expressed his remorse about the incident.
“It’s something that we take very, very seriously and it’s something that I do as well,” he said.
“I think it’s also an embarrassment to this university and something I think we’ll be able to correct very quickly,” he continued citing the effect on the school’s student athletes and fans. “I deeply regret that this has happened.”
No questions were allowed after the coach’s roughly two minute statement and school officials have expressed caution at allowing anyone to discuss the matter further with the coaching staff or members of the team. However, the damage was already done as video of the fight made its rounds on newscasts throughout the state.
There were several videos of varying quality available, but one of the best was taken by UCA senior Spencer Griffin, who was filming the game when the altercation broke out.
“I knew it was trouble whenever you saw him (Norwood) coming out and then Coach Gum and him getting close together,” Griffin said. “Usually it’s just between coaches or players and the umpires, but when it gets between two coaches and they got face to face and then Norwood went down and it all escalated from there.”
Griffin also expressed concern with how close the melee got to the fans when it moved to the backstop. “Right on the netting is a little scary, because you don’t know how close the fans are going to get. Luckily nobody was injured or anything and they dispersed after that,” he said.
The media attention that this has attracted may not be the kind that the school seeks, but it insures that the upcoming game on April 23 at Hogan Field will have a larger audience than normal. That is when the UCA Bears visit the UALR Trojans.