Michigan coach Juwan Howard received a five-game suspension for his role in a postgame scuffle after the Wolverines’ loss at Wisconsin on Sunday which will keep him off the sidelines for the remainder of the regular season, the Big Ten announced Monday. He is the only coach involved in Sunday’s melee facing a suspension, though three players — Michigan’s Moussa Diabate and Terrance Williams II and Wisconsin’s Jahcobi Neath — each received one-game suspensions. Howard was also fined $40,000 from the league and Wisconsin coach Greg Gard was fined $10,000.
“Big Ten Conference coaches and student-athletes are expected to display the highest level of sportsmanship conduct,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement announcing the fines and suspensions. “I am grateful for the partnership with Michigan Athletics Director, Warde Manuel and Wisconsin Athletics Director, Chris McIntosh. Our expectation is that the incident yesterday will provide our coaches and student-athletes with the opportunity to reflect, learn and move forward in a manner that demonstrates decorum and leadership on and off of the court.”
The punishments come after a melee that began when Howard struck Wisconsin assistant Joe Krabbenhoft following a tense exchange with Gard in the handshake line after the game. Gard’s decision to call timeout with 15 seconds left and the Badgers holding a 15-point lead is what sparked Howard’s ire. With the Wolverines maintaining full-court pressure after Wisconsin went to a lineup of walk-ons and reserves, Gard later explained that he called the timeout to help his team avoid a 10-second violation. But it did not sit well with Howard.
“I didn’t like the timeout they called, I’ll be totally honest,” Howard said. “I thought it was not necessary at that moment, especially with it being a large lead. … I thought that wasn’t fair to our guys.”
Following Monday’s punishment, Howard issued an apology.
“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. I am truly sorry,” said Howard. “I am offering my sincerest apology to my players and their families, my staff, my family and the Michigan fans around the world. I would like to personally apologize to Wisconsin’s Assistant Coach Joe Krabbenhoft and his family, too.”
The ordeal brought a swift rebuke from Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel on Sunday, and the Big Ten pledged “swift and appropriate disciplinary action when it completes its review.”
Howard’s suspension comes with Michigan needing a late surge to reach the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines are one of the “First four out” of the projected NCAA Tournament field, according to CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm. Their next game comes Wednesday against Rutgers.
The program does have a natural fill-in on staff in associate head coach Phil Martelli. The former longtime St. Joseph’s head coach is in his third season on Howard’s staff after a storied 24-year run in the Atlantic-10.