By Scott Sonner, The Associated Press
RENO, Nev. — The Western Athletic Conference reprimanded former Eastern New Mexico Greyhound and current Nevada basketball coach Mark Fox on Tuesday for unsportsmanlike conduct with referees in two games in March but spared him any fine or suspension.
The more serious of the two incidents involved Fox yelling profanities and appearing ready to use force toward a police officer and game officials after the Wolf Pack lost to Utah State in the WAC tournament on March 9 at Las Cruces, N.M.
New Mexico State University campus police filed a police report but agreed to WAC Commissioner Karl Benson’s request at the time to let the league handle an investigation into the matter.
“The WAC has a set of standards by which all coaches, student-athletes and administrators are expected to follow when it comes to exhibiting good sportsmanship,” Benson said in a statement Tuesday.
“Coach Fox violated those standards,” he said.
Fox also issued a statement Tuesday apologizing for his behavior.
“I take full responsibility for my actions that resulted in this and apologize to all those involved,” Fox said. “I have renewed my commitment to adhere to the WAC’s sportsmanship policies in the future.”
Benson was attending a meeting Tuesday on the Bowl Championship Series in New Orleans and was not immediately available for additional comment, WAC spokesman Dave Chaffin said.
Chaffin said he did not know if the league considered fining or suspending Fox for a game. He said the reprimand carried no additional penalties.
“A public reprimand is just pretty much what it says,” Chaffin told The Associated Press from WAC headquarters in Denver.
“It’s not really penalizing. It would go in the file and next time something like this happens, more stringent penalties could occur,” he said.
The last time the WAC suspended a coach was when then-Texas El Paso coach Don Haskins was suspended for one game on Feb. 10, 1998, Chaffin said.
Haskins had been reprimanded earlier in the season after an altercation with an official earlier. He then publicly criticized officials after he was ejected from a game on Feb. 7, which led to the suspension.
The other incident involving Fox this year occurred during a game when he bumped an official after a foul was called against Wolf Pack star forward Nick Fazekas in the final minutes of a loss at Utah State on March 1.
The WAC decided to review that matter after the police report was filed in Las Cruces following Nevada’s 79-77 loss to Utah State in the WAC semifinals at the Pan American Center, Chaffin said.
NMSU officer Quent Pirtle said in the report in Las Cruces that he was escorting officials Bill Gracey, Winston Stith and Larry Spaulding to their dressing room when he heard Fox using “loud, boisterous and profane language toward the officials.”
“As Mr. Fox continued to curse and be abusive toward the officials, he continued to close distance,” Pirtle wrote. “I placed my hand on the back of the last official and tried to hurry him up the ramp.”
Pirtle said at that point Fox was about 2 feet away.
“I slowed down and put my hand across his chest to prevent him from getting any closer to the official,” Pirtle said.
The officer said Fox told him, “Don’t put your (expletive) hands on me.”
“I told Mr. Fox to back off and again pushed against him to keep him from the officials,” Pirtle said. “The behavior of Mr. Fox toward me was in a rude and insolent manner and I believed Mr. Fox was going to touch or apply force to the officials or myself.”
Pirtle said he considered arresting Fox on charges of assault on a police officer and a conventional assault charge. After meeting with Benson and other tournament officials, he decided to let the WAC office deal with the incident.