Nevada coach Mark Fox finds himself above the law after all
QUENT Pirtle wants to know how in the world I found his phone number.
(Hey, that's what happens when you're board president of the Las Cruces Whole Enchilada Festival.)
In case you've forgotten, Pirtle was the almost arresting officer March 9 when some say Nevada basketball coach Mark Fox went nuts at the Western Athletic Conference tournament. After Nevada lost to Utah State, Fox allegedly chased and cursed the game officials and, eventually, their New Mexico State University police escort, Pirtle. In his official report, Pirtle wrote that he thought coach Fox might "apply force" and that his behavior "amounted to a criminal level."
You already know all this. It was well covered, and it's old news. The new news is that a couple of weeks ago the other shoe finally dropped. The WAC at last wrapped up this case.
In his original police report, Pirtle wrote that he was considering arresting Fox, but in the end, he decided to let Fox go and "allow the commissioner to handle the situation internally."
On April 24, the WAC did. That's why I was calling Pirtle, to see what he thought when he'd heard that Fox was "reprimanded" for his actions. Just reprimanded. From near arrest to no suspension. No fine.
"A public reprimand is pretty much what it says," WAC assistant commissioner Dave Chaffin told the Associated Press on the day of the announcement. "It's not really penalizing. It would go in the file and next time something like this happens, more stringent penalties could occur."
Yesterday, WAC commissioner Karl Benson chose his words carefully, and said he couldn't elaborate much beyond the official ruling.
"I would acknowledge there were conflicting reports on what did occur," he said.
A University of Nevada policeman told the Reno Gazette-Journal that Fox was profane, as many losing basketball coaches can be, but not near violent.
OK, two sides to every story. Innocent until proven guilty, we can never forget that. But no matter what happened, it's clear Fox caught a break that Officer Pirtle decided to let the conference handle it, instead of the cops.
Fox was a guy who -- to this outside observer, at least -- seemed to think he was more and more bulletproof as last season went along when it came to the refs. (An earlier bump of an official is included in the reprimand.)
"I'm confident that in the future Mark Fox will adhere to the WAC sportsmanship policies," Benson said.
Without responding to my statements, but in general, "I think we have his attention," Benson said.
Well, that's good. As for Officer Pirtle, he again showed restraint, opting not to comment unless it was cleared by his boss (and that call hasn't come). A Nevada official said Fox -- who apologized after the incident and then again when the reprimand was announced -- didn't want to say anything more on the subject, and that's probably just as well.
But I was just wondering -- if one of his players had been detained by the police, but then let go to let the coach handle it internally -- what would Fox do?
My guess would be a reprimand. And then some suicides and stadium steps.