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LOGAN — The fans were not involved.
After investigating a viral incident caught on camera involving the Nevada men’s basketball team following the Wolf Pack’s 81-76 loss at Utah State, the Mountain West Conference has concluded that the events that led to the incident in a hallway underneath the Dee Glenn Smith Spectrum Arena were not a result of Aggie fans or the nearby court-storming.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, the conference said Utah State had a postgame management plan in place for the court storm, and that it was executed successfully.
Instead, the encounter was caused by “inappropriate conduct by individuals from both programs in the postgame handshake line and subsequently in the locker room areas created the unfortunate circumstances” that led to Nevada star forward Jordan Caroline punching a fire extinguisher cabinet, while coaches and personnel were audibly shouting at stadium officials.
“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,” Utah State athletic director John Hartwell said in a statement.
Videos taken from the stands show members of the Nevada team reacting like they were being touched by the rushing students, but the Mountain West determined that the court storm wasn’t a factor.
Mountain West Confernece and Utah State issue statements relating to the weekend dispute. pic.twitter.com/N9kN7qMEmD— KSL.com Sports (@KSLcomSports) March 4, 2019
In one security-camera video obtained by KSL.com through an open-records request, Caroline is seen visibly upset as he enters the hallway outside the Spectrum arena. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward from Champaign, Illinois, pulls his jersey over his head as he walks at the tail end of a line of teammates, with only two Nevada staff members loitering behind the group that consoles him.
What happens next is difficult to know since there is no audio recorded in the video. But shortly after entering the visiting locker room, Caroline is seen in the video running out of it and being restrained by teammates as he shouts something away from the security cameras. He returns within frame of the camera following the earlier confrontation obtained by KSL and KUTV photographers.
A USU staff member told KSL.com that a person off-camera had made a remark in the hallways about Nevada players and staff not shaking hands in the line and that it echoed in the hallways just before Caroline is seen exiting the locker room.
Another angle shows Caroline run past an unidentified USU employee trailed by the two assistants. Nevada head coach Eric Musselman can be seen trying to hold back Caroline’s teammates from charging after the Wolf Pack senior, as well.
In video of the court-storming also obtained by KSL.com, multiple Nevada players — including Caroline — are seen reacting and moving away from students as they rush the floor. No sound is available with the security camera footage, and it is unclear if a verbal exchange also occurred between the students and players.
But there is a moment where what appears to be an Aggie assistant coach stops, turns to an unidentifiable Nevada staff member, and says something as he passes him in the handshake line. The two look at each other, but it is unclear what more was said as a mass of students and fans flood the floor around them.
The verbal echange occurred before Caroline had finished passing through the handshake line.
Musselman tweeted his support and praise of Caroline in a pair of social media posts Monday. Caroline practiced Monday, but is questionable for Tuesday night’s game at Air Force, according to ESPN.
“As someone who’s had the honor to know and coach Jordan Caroline for four years, I can testify to his outstanding character, high moral standards and strong integrity. He’s kind, compassionate, and competitive,’ Musselman wrote. “Basketball aside, we’re fortunate to have such an upstanding young man as part of the Wolf Pack family.”
So what happened in the handshake line?
Stadium’s Jeff Goodman said in a video posted on Twitter that he was told by one of his sources that the postgame incident was instigated by a Utah State assistant’s refusal to shake the hand of a Nevada assistant.
“It escalated from there,” Goodman said. “When Jordan Caroline and some of the Nevada coaches went out to the tunnel in the same area where Utah State was, that same Utah State assistant yelled something — not racial — just yelled something with an expletive about not shaking their hands. Well, Jordan Caroline was already heated, he had a bad game, they lost that game and the crowd erupted on to the court … he reacted in a flammable way.”
The league did not hand out punishment to either university, instead deferring action to the individual basketball programs, athletic departments and university administration.
“It must be made clear unsportsmanlike and unprofessional conduct is not acceptable and will not be tolerated,” the statement said.