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Michigan coach Juwan Howard is suspended for the rest of season

Michigan head coach Juwan Howard during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Wisconsin Sunday in Madison, Wis.
Andy Manis
/
AP
Michigan head coach Juwan Howard during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Wisconsin Sunday in Madison, Wis.

Updated February 22, 2022 at 2:13 AM ET

The Big Ten Conference suspended the University of Michigan's men's head basketball coach Juwan Howard for five games and fined him $40,000 for hitting an assistant coach from the University of Wisconsin. Howard slapped Joe Krabbenhoft after Michigan lost to Wisconsin Sunday. The initial hit set off a melee among players, and the conference suspended three players for fighting as well.

The suspension means Howard will miss the rest of the regular season, but he could be allowed to return for the conference tournament and the NCAA tournament if Michigan qualifies. The university said "all parties will meet to make a final decision" before reinstatement.

"After taking time to reflect on all that happened, I realize how unacceptable both my actions and words were, and how they affected so many," Howard said in a statement release by the university. "I am truly sorry."

As the teams lined up to shake hands after the game, Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard grabbed Howard's arm and appeared to try to talk with him. In a postgame press conference, Gard said he tried to explain to Howard why he called a timeout with seconds left in the game and his team commanding a significant lead.

"He came up to me and pulled his mask down and said, 'I'll remember that,' and he started pointing at me and tapping me in the chest," Gard said.

The Big Ten fined Gard $10,000 for violating its sportsmanship policy.

After the game, Howard disputed Gard's retelling, saying it was unnecessary for Gard to touch him.

"It wasn't called for that, when we're talking," he said. "At that point, you know, at that point, I thought it was time to protect myself."

During the confrontation, players and coaches from both teams crowded around the men. As things heated up, Howard swung, hitting Krabbenhoft, setting off a larger scrum The conference suspended Michigan players Terrance Williams II and Moussa Diabate, and Wisconsin player Jahcobi Neath for one game each.

"Simply put, there is no room at U-M for the behavior we saw," Warde Manuel, the university's athletic director said. "We will learn from this incident as a department, work to improve ourselves while operating under a spotlight, and move forward in a positive light

Manuel said Sunday he called his counterpart at the University of Wisconsin, as did University of Michigan interim president Mary Sue Coleman, to apologize "for the totally unacceptable behavior."

Howard was a star member of Michigan's "Fab Five" in the early 1990s. He, along with Chris Webber and Jalen Rose, helped popularize baggy shorts and black Nike socks in basketball. They're the subject of a documentary that explored their impact on the sport, as well as the investigation into illegal payments to players. The teams failed to win a national championship, but several, including Howard, went on to successful NBA careers. He won two NBA championships with the Miami Heat.

"Big Ten Conference coaches and student-athletes are expected to display the highest level of sportsmanship conduct," Commissioner Kevin Warren said in statement announcing the penalties.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Peter Granitz