‘Unacceptable’ behavior from Utah State staff, not fans or players, behind expletive-laden shouting match with Nevada

(Eli Lucero | The Herald Journal) Fans celebrate with Utah State forward Justin Bean on the court after Utah State defeated Nevada 81-76 in an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 2, 2019, in Logan, Utah.

The tempers that flared — and went viral — in the aftermath of Utah State’s biggest win in over a decade did not have anything to do with the thousands of fans who rushed the court in celebration Saturday evening.

That determination comes from the Mountain West Conference league office, which on Monday, issued a statement explaining that the situation in the hallways of the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum was due to “inappropriate conduct” from both programs in the postgame handshake line, and subsequently, in the locker room areas.

The MWC office said it reviewed video clips from various sources as well as a collection of written statements from individuals involved. The USU fans who stormed the court after the 81-76 win over then No. 12-ranked Nevada were not the root of the incidents that surfaced in expletive-laden videos posted late Saturday evening. The league will not sanction or fine either school, rather leaving it up each individual university to determine penalties for those involved.

“There was a postgame management plan in place and it was executed successfully,” the MWC statement said.

The MWC statement said conference officials had multiple talks with both USU athletic director John Hartwell as well as Nevada AD Doug Knuth and has shared the conference’s findings with them.

“Each institution will be responsible for the determination and administration of what it deems appropriate disciplinary action for those involved,” the MWC statement explained. “It must be made clear unsportsmanlike and unprofessional conduct is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”

Hartwell later released a statement regarding the postgame incidents Saturday in Logan, saying there was “unacceptable” behavior by some USU staff members.

“First of all, we want to thank both the Mountain West and the University of Nevada in helping us review the postgame incident from Saturday night,” Hartwell said. “While unfortunate, it should not overshadow what was a great college basketball game between two NCAA Tournament-caliber teams.

“After reviewing all the evidence, from surveillance video to eyewitness accounts, the incident was not a game management issue and was not caused by our students rushing the court. The unsportsmanlike behavior following the game did not include any of our student-athletes, but rather a couple of staff members, which is unacceptable, and we will handle those issues internally. Moving forward, Utah State athletics will review our game management procedures in an effort to continually learn and improve.”

After the win Saturday, various media outlets captured videos of Wolf Pack coaches directing obscenities toward uniformed police officers and a USU staffer. Videos also showed Nevada star forward Jordan Caroline punching a glass fire extinguisher case in anger and Caroline later had to be restrained by teammates. Multiple outlets reported that Caroline was set off by a Utah State assistant who allegedly directed profanity at the Wolf Pack starter.

Nevada coaches and staffers were later seen criticizing uniformed police officers, alleging they were not properly protecting their players from being touched by fans who rushed the court as they tried to make their way to the locker room once the game had ended.

USU closes Mountain West Conference play Tuesday at Colorado State. With a win, the Aggies (24-6, 14-3) clinch at least a share of the MWC regular-season championship.

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