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Pushing and shoving transformed into full-scale punching and kicking during the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl this Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas.
Immediately following the game, which ended with the Mississippi State Bulldogs winning 28-26 against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, “what started with some shoving near midfield during the postgame handshake” quickly exploded, according to ESPN.
Video footage from the fight showed what were described by the announcers as “real punches” and “actual punches” being thrown left and right.
“It’s dangerous. These are strong men hitting each other as hard as they can with no helmets on,” the announcers noted.
Watch the main part of the fight below (*Graphic content):
A massive brawl broke out at the end of the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl between Tulsa and Mississippi State. pic.twitter.com/zfaq912SWU
— ESPN (@espn) December 31, 2020
According to the announcers, the beef began even before the game started.
“This is something that began percolating before the game even began, when both of these teams were warming up on the field live-jawing. It progressed throughout the game, and now this,” they said.
They added that criminal charges could ultimately result from what happened.
“I mean, we talk about physical football games, we talk about drawing blood … this is completely different, completely uncalled for, and it’s disgraceful. I mean … I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if criminal charges fell,” they said.
“You can’t you can’t do this. I mean, you can’t rip people’s helmets off and then go kick him in the face. I mean, this is as bad as I’ve ever seen.”
Watch the full footage from beginning to end below:
Near the end of the video, Tulsa safety Kendarin Ray can be seen being helped off the field because of injuries sustained during the fight. The announcers noted that he was having difficulty breathing. His status as of Friday remains unclear.
As to what provoked the fight, the reason also remains unclear, though there does seem to be a stark contrast between how the teams’ respective coaches chose to respond to what had happened.
Mississippi State coach Mike Leach condemned the fight outright.
“It’s dumb. The root of it’s dumb, no matter what the root of it is. The root of it’s dumb and the continuation of it’s dumb,” he said. “I would have that solidly in the category of dumb. Now where the dumb started, I’m not entirely sure,” he reportedly said.
Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery responded differently.
“The one thing I’ll say is our program, our guys, we’re a team that is going to stand up for each other and we’re going to battle. We talked about faith, family, football, and family is going to take care of family,” he reportedly said.
“We’re a team that has battled all year long. We battled again today, and from that standpoint, our guys are going to continue to protect each other and go from there.”
It’s not clear which “battle” he was referencing …
Now, while neither coach would specify a precise reason for the fight, Leech did reportedly say “a group of Tulsa players circled around the Mississippi State pregame warm-ups and ‘were talking,'” as reported by ESPN.
The “talking” was presumably the “live-jawing” mentioned by the announcers. The slang definition of jawing is to basically talk trash.
The American Athletic Conference meanwhile reportedly expressed disappointment that its “highest standard of sportsmanship” wasn’t met.
“We will work with the University of Tulsa to conduct a thorough review of the altercation pursuant to our Conference Code of Sportsmanship process and expect that the university will respond accordingly,” AAC commissioner Michael Aresco reportedly said.
As for the public, a stunning number of people who responded to ESPN’s reporting seemed dismissive of what had happened. The general consensus was that these sorts of fights happen all the time in hockey, so lighten up.
similar shit happens in hockey all the time but when it happens in football everyone freaks out and wants to throw the players in jail lol
— Josh Allen 2020 NFL MVP (@BuffaloTimBits) December 31, 2020
It’s funny everybody is up in arms over this college fight. But hence let it be a regular night of professional hockey and it’s all good. No one is called a thug or demanding a pay cut or thrown off the team. Come on, it’s a football game, shit happens. Stop it already!
— michelle matthews (@NailsbyChellz) January 1, 2021
Commentators sound scared, like they’ve never seen brawls before. “Those are real punches”. What’s a fake punch? Haha
— Jaime Gomez (@JaimeSupreme) December 31, 2020
Calm down folks, pretend it’s Hockey.
— MiMi (@flints1963) January 1, 2021
Hockey scouts be like pic.twitter.com/QmY5vhSciR
— Revolution Is Human Evolution 🦸♀️ (@JoinWResistance) January 1, 2021
Is hockey really like that, though? Apparently yes, or at least in regard to individual fights between players. And the reason why is because fights are allowed.
“In 1922, the National Hockey League incorporated Rule 56 into its official rule book, which governed what it then called ‘Fisticuffs’ as an official part of the game,” Business Insider notes.
However, neither the AAC nor the National Collegiate Athletic Association boast such an exception. Plus, according to critics, fighting isn’t something to aspire to, especially when there are kids who’d kill for the opportunities granted to these college football players:
Class def not in session. this is a joke. Scholarship dollars going to this over kids who would take advantage of the opportunity to go a 4 year university. Sort of like young politicians lined up for vaccinations before the elderly.
— @twinsrule1922 (@twinsrule1922) December 31, 2020
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