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Michigan vs. Wisconsin fight: What punishment does Wolverines coach Juwan Howard deserve for role in brawl?

The sports world is buzzing with reaction to the postgame fight involving Michigan and Wisconsin on Sunday. Considering that the main character in the ordeal was Michigan coach Juwan Howard, a former NBA All-Star and two-time NBA champion, the dust-up makes for particularly compelling hot takes.

Howard is a figure who transcends the college game. He’s a Michigan icon, NBA legend and increasingly polarizing figure within the sport. Because he’s recruited so well and is keen to wearing his emotions on his sleeve, it’s not shocking that he’s already made some enemies within the Big Ten.

But how stiff of a punishment should he receive for an incident that was highlighted by his open-handed strike on Wisconsin assistant Joe Krabbenhoft? Howard’s defenders would have you believe that he was the true victim — provoked by Greg Gard’s late timeout and by Gard’s attempt to stop Howard in the postgame handshake line. There’s also the uncertainty surrounding what Krabbenhoft may have said to provoke Howard.

But while it’s incumbent upon Michigan and the Big Ten to parse through the clutter and figure out exactly what happened, the raw video is unkind to Howard.

So, based off what we know as of Monday morning, what should Howard’s punishment be? Our writers weigh in for this edition of the Dribble Handoff:

Gary Parrish: Howard should be suspended, but not terminated 

Let’s define the baseline of punishment at suspension: I would imagine Greg Gard gets no suspension. The players who threw punches on video will face a suspension. And Juwan Howard’s going to face a suspension. I think it stops short of termination, although, there were plenty of people — even like legitimate media people — saying he should be terminated for what he did. I’ll stop short of that. I don’t like throwing around termination for one bad moment. But does he deserve to be punished in some way? Yes. . . Whatever the punishments are, the most severe is going to be aimed in the direction of Juwan Howard.

Matt Norlander: Five-game suspension for Howard

Any attempt at an accurate prediction for what the Big Ten will do for all people involved would be foolish. I can only speak to what’s practical after what transpired on Sunday. If the Big Ten decides to sit Gard for at least a game, I think that would be fair. It could be multiple games for Krabbenhoft, who escalated matters, and Badgers assistant Sharif Chambliss, who appears to physically confront Michigan player Terrance Williams. The players seen throwing punches — Williams, Michigan’s Moussa Diabate and Wisconsin’s Jahcobi Neath — should all sit one game. The league can’t tolerate any punches thrown, ever, and I would expect those institutions to concur with at least a one-game suspension for those players. 

But the players did not instigate this nor start this. Howard is the primary offender and he should serve the worst punishment. A five-game suspension feels appropriate. (That’s the rest of Michigan’s regular season.) No, he shouldn’t be fired. A season-ending suspension wouldn’t surprise me, and given his encounter with Mark Turgeon during last year’s Big Ten Tournament, the precedent set there could play a part. The question is, how much of this will be enacted by Michigan vs. what the league could do on top of Michigan’s discipline? The two universities and the conference will work in conjunction (to an extent) on this, but ultimately it’s up to the conference’s discretion and commissioner Kevin Warren to approve all disciplinary action 

Kyle Boone: Howard should sit rest of regular season

There should, and likely will be, multiple suspensions incoming, but Howard’s should be the stiffest punishment handed down by the Big Ten not only because his swing at Krabbenhoft was really what precipitated the melee in Madison, but because this is the second time in the last year he’s had an incident. (A year ago he was ejected from a game after an exchange with Maryland coach Mark Turgeon escalated and he had to be restrained.) A five-game suspension — through the end of the regular season — feels right. And two games for Gard seems fair, given that he shoulders some blame after holding Howard up — with at least some force — in the handshake line. From there anyone who did not diffuse the situation must be held liable with at least a one-game suspension, maybe two, dependent upon how egregious the actions. I expect the Big Ten will want to be heavy-handed to send a message that what happened Sunday was not OK, so don’t be surprised if the list of those facing punishment is a long one.

David Cobb: Howard deserves more than Gard’s punishment

Three games, five games, 10 games. The length of suspension doesn’t matter to me so much as the proportionality does. It can’t be an equal suspension for Gard like much of Howard’s hive seems to want.

Gard deserves to be punished for his role, yes. But whatever he gets should be no more than roughly 20% of whatever Howard gets. It was Howard’s decision to continue with a full-court press while down 15 with under a minute to play that prompted the Wisconsin timeout. The Badgers had walk-ons and reserves in the game, and if a timeout by Gard in that situation was against the game’s unwritten rules, then wasn’t Michigan’s continued use of the press also a poor display of sportsmanship?

Then, there’s also the reality that Gard had coolly gone through nine members of Michigan’s handshake line before reaching Howard, who can clearly be seen saying something to Gard. So the idea that Howard was just calmly headed to the locker room before Gard placed hands on him doesn’t hold up. it’s understandable that Gard wanted to defend himself against whatever Howard was saying. But by placing his hands on Howard, he forfeited his claim to innocence. There should also be some punishment for the other coaches and players involved. But as for the two-most visible participants — Howard and Gard — proportion seems like the most important element. Whatever punishment Howard gets, Gard’s should be considerably less. 

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