The Southwestern Athletic Conference is investigating Saturday’s postgame fight between the Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Southern football teams, but does not immediately have a timetable regarding possible disciplinary action, league spokesman Tom Galbraith said Sunday.
Galbraith, who was at Golden Lion Stadium on Saturday for UAPB’s 22-21 win, said he had not yet spoken directly to Commissioner Duer Sharp, though they’d been in contact via email.
“At this point, we’re trying to find all the resources we can get, including video, to make a full evaluation,” Galbraith said. “It just takes a little time to get all the information.”
Southern interim athletic director Sandy Pugh expressed regret over the incident.
“Obviously we’re extremely disappointed over what occurred, and we apologize to our fan base, our fans and our alumni,” Pugh said. “We’re sending forward our team video so the conference can take a look at all angles and go from there.”
UAPB’s own television station was broadcasting the game, using cameras from the press box and the field. The SWAC was using that television feed to stream the game live on its website.
WAFB-TV also shot and aired footage of the fight Saturday.
It was an all-out brawl that included dozens of players, including some who swung their helmets as weapons; fans hurling soda and water bottles onto the field; and Jefferson County sheriffs using pepper spray in an attempt to break up the mob.
SU defensive coordinator O’Neill Gilbert and UAPB head coach Monte Coleman - who, like most coaches from both teams, tried to restrain players and get them off the field - were knocked over by the pepper spray.
Among the scariest sights was that of SU linebacker Jared Detrick, who lay on his back as equipment manager Derek Price cut open Detrick’s jersey and shoulder pads. Price then continued to rhythmically press down on Detrick’s chest.
Pettaway and Detrick later walked toward the locker room on their own.
SU cornerback LaMarkius Pettaway, who was seen swinging his helmet moments earlier, also inhaled pepper spray and needed an oxygen mask.
The scene on the eastside stands was ugly, as well. During the fight, fans from both teams hurled soda and water bottles onto the field, in the direction of players, coaches and bystanders.
At least two people in street clothes were seen leaving the area in handcuffs, though it was unclear Sunday if law-enforcement officers arrested anyone.
Attempts to reach the Jefferson County (Ark.) Sheriff’s Department were unsuccessful.
Bill Sadler, public information officer for the Arkansas State Police, said any arrests would have been made by the UAPB Police Department.
A man who answered the phone at the UAPB Police Department said he wasn’t sure of any arrests, adding that “nobody who would know” would be available until members of the administration returned Monday.
The fight started shortly after Southern scored with no time left on an 11-yard throwback screen from quarterback Dray Joseph to tailback Sylvester Nzekwe, bringing the Jaguars to within one point. But Jarvis Webb blocked the extra-point attempt, securing the 22-21 win for UAPB.
Shortly thereafter, the fight began. It lasted about 10 minutes and, at times, broke from a gigantic mob into smaller clusters of fights between the teams. Most of the action happened near Southern’s sideline.
It was unclear who threw the first punch. SU linebackers Frachot West and Jamie Payton were clearly seen throwing punches, but they were definitely not alone. Dozens of players from both teams traded punches and, at times, were even seen kicking other players.
Pugh wanted to make clear that many Southern players were not involved in the fight and were either trying to stay away or break it up.
“Coach Mitchell is really beside himself,” Pugh said Sunday. “He’s a great coach. He’s extremely conscientious about discipline and what he does and how his players handle themselves.
“I think a lot of people are going to paint a poor portrait of our team, and that’s not accurate.”
SU Chancellor James Llorens, who was at the game, issued a statement late Saturday apologizing to fans, adding: “This is not representative of our student-athletes, coaches and Southern University and A&M College.
“This was a serious breach of our code of student conduct and we will make it clear to our coaches and players in all sports that this kind of action will not be tolerated. We plan to take appropriate disciplinary measures in this matter.”
The only other college football fight in recent memory that rivaled Saturday was a 2006 brawl in the Orange Bowl between players from Miami (Fla.) and FIU.
A day later, 31 players from both teams were suspended for one game.