Almost 5,000 GW fans attended Tuesday night’s men’s basketball game against Xavier. The student section was filled to the back rows, seemingly in full support of their Colonials. When Attila Cosby fouled out in the second half, the crowd was behind him. When GW head coach Tom Penders motioned for student support with his team closing to within two points in the game’s final minute, the crowd was there.
But it seems Penders’ connection with students ends there. The facts about a post-game altercation in a hospitality room at last month’s Outrigger Rainbow Classic in Hawaii still remain unclear. Penders has been relatively quiet about it, limiting his comments to a few brief statements. The majority of students at Tuesday night’s frustrating loss to Xavier hadn’t heard much more than what was written about the scuffle.
But those who did said they agree that the coach is to blame for the team’s latest tiff. Fans said Pender’s silence after the altercation, as well as the suspect history of him and some of his players, give them a sense that the team is detached from the University.
“Honestly, I don’t feel like they’re part of this school,” junior Nizar Wattad said from the upper stands in the student section. Wattad is from Johnson City, Tenn., near the University of Tennessee. Wattad said he blames the University for the team’s detachment.
“I think it’s a question of the entire GW coaching staff and the GW bureaucracy wanting this team to come in and play ball,” he said. “They don’t care about making them active in part of the students’ lives.”
Senior Kris Campbell put the blame directly on Penders.
“Penders needs to gain control of team on and off the court,” he said. “Players on this team are no different than players on any other team as far as character.”
Freshman Gabe Goodwin called it a matter of negligence.
“If we were better and we could back up how we wanted to act as tough guys, that would be one thing,” Goodwin said. “I would say I’m not personally embarrassed, but I’m definitely not proud of it.
Some students, including Nathan Weiner, a bass trombonist in the GW band that traveled to Hawaii said they support the team wholeheartedly and brush the incident aside.
“They weren’t going out and starting a fight,” Weiner said. “They’ve been pretty respectable.”
Penders and players were unavailable for comment Wednesday.