Michael: Postgame incident with New Mexico bigger than basketball

Justin Michael

The Rams dropped a second game in conference play, losing 84-71 to New Mexico Saturday afternoon, but the teams made headlines for what occurred following the game. After a chippy contest that started with the teams exchanging words pregame and continued with physical play throughout, a post-game altercation took place between Emmanuel Omogbo and the New Mexico assistant coaches outside of Moby Arena.

The incident was captured on video by the UNM beat reporter Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal, where a visibly furious Omogbo is being held back by head coach Larry Eustachy. In the video, Omogbo very audibly tells assistant coach Terrence Rencher that he will “beat his ass”. Rencher had been ejected from the game for coming on the court in the second half and supposedly has issues with the team dating back to last year, as referenced in Coloradoan Sports editor Matt Stephens’ column. 

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Even worse than a grown man trying to fight a student-athlete, according to Eustachy in an interview with ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, Rencher laughed when Eustachy’s wife attempted to defuse the situation by reminding the UNM assistant that Omogbo was emotional due to being close to the anniversary of the tragic death of his family. New Mexico has since released a statement disputing that Rencher laughed at Omogbo.

“It has been reported by multiple outlets that coach Rencher laughed when he was asked if he understood the personal tragedy faced by Emmanuel Omogbo in the past year. That is categorically false, and video and eyewitness accounts have confirmed the inaccuracy. We believe that the false accusation of such a heartless act needed to be addressed immediately.” 

This was a classic heated game between a couple of schools that have a lot of history and do not particularly like each other very much, but the events that transpired Saturday went beyond the basketball court and it is really lucky that the situation did not blow up any more than it did. 

We may never know the exact truth of what went down, but I have a hard believing Eustachy would lie about Rencher laughing about such a terrible events for a variety of reasons. 

First, Omogbo is a levelheaded individual and as someone that has had the privilege to interview him throughout the season, I can say quite confidently that he does not act like that just because the team lost a basketball game. Omogbo has always been somebody that keeps his composure and I truly believe it would take somebody crossing the line for him to reach that level of aggression. 

Second, according to Keegan Pope of Scout.com, a University of New Mexico assistant coach reportedly told the CSU players and staff as they were leaving the court, “Maybe you guys should focus more on studying and less on domestic violence… At least we don’t have a bunch of wife beaters on the court.”

Finally, why would the UNM assistants still be waiting outside the arena and not already be on the bus for any reason other than stirring things up with the opposing team? Coaches frequently hang around until all the players are on the bus and considering the fact that the UNM players were already loaded, there was no logical reason for them to be hanging around the arena after such a heated contest. 

Even if Rencher did not laugh about the tragedy, as the University of New Mexico has stated, his actions Saturday were inexcusable and he deserves to face consequences for his actions, not a simple letter of reprimand that the University has given. Rencher antagonized an emotional Omogbo and took advantage of a young man that was in a lose-lose situation. 

Omogbo is in no way innocent in the situation, but the reality is a grown man should never do what Rencher did, especially one that is paid to be a mentor to young men and represent a University. 

When players get in a scuffle on the court, we justify it by realizing that competitiveness takes over in the heat of the moment, but when a grown man tries to intimidate somebody off the court, that’s not the heat of the moment, that is just being a bully.

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Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael.