Conference USA imposes discipline for ODU/WKU brawl

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ODU Head coach Bobby Wilder. (Photo: by Mike Comer/Getty Images)

ODU Head coach Bobby Wilder. (Photo: by Mike Comer/Getty Images)

NORFOLK, Va. – After a “comprehensive review” of the incident, Conference USA has imposed discipline for the benches-clearing brawl during Saturday’s Old Dominion/Western Kentucky football game in Bowling Green.

ODU sophomore safety Christian Byrum and WKU senior RB Anthony Wales have each been suspended for the first half of their team’s games this Saturday for their conduct during the incident. ODU sophomore wide receiver Kesean Strong and defensive back Rob Thompson have been reprimanded for their roles, in addition to WKU senior WR Nicholas and junior WR Kylen Towner.

“Conference USA takes sportsmanship and player safety very seriously and the conference appreciates the efforts of both coaching staffs and the game officials to restore order following the incident and play the remainder of the game without any additional issues,” Russ Anderson, Conference USA Assistant Commissioner for Football and Baseball Operations said in a statement.

Eight minutes into the second half of Saturday’s ODU/WKU game, with the Hilltoppers leading 52-24, a sideline shoving incident escalated into a benches-clearing brawl in which punches were thrown. ODU backup safety Jamshyer McUmber was the only player ejected, although every member of both teams received unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

“We respect Conference USA’s decision and will now move forward as we prepare for this week’s game at UTEP,” ODU Head Coach Bobby Wilder said.

“I addressed it with our team immediately after it happened on the field and in the locker room,” Wilder told reporters Monday. “We discussed it at length again yesterday in our team meeting. One thing I will say is that we take tremendous pride in being one of the least penalized teams in the league all three years we’ve been in it. We are among the top in the country in terms of fewest penalties, as sportsmanship is something that is very important to our organization.”

“[WKU head football coach]Jeff Brohm and I have discussed the situation numerous times over the past 36 hours,” Wilder said in a statement. “We have tremendous respect for each other and our programs. Jeff and I talk football on a regular basis at our league meetings and have a history together. Two teams that were competing hard during the game let a physical play go too far in the third quarter. You can clearly see on the video the majority of the players and all of the coaches were working with the officials to get the players focus back on football,”

Western Kentucky defeated ODU 59-24, after leading 52-14 at halftime. Old Dominion plays at Texas-El Paso Saturday.