After slapping an assistant coach for the Wisconsin men’s basketball team in the head in the handshake line after his team’s loss on Sunday, Michigan Coach Juwan Howard was suspended for five games — the remainder of the regular season — and fined $40,000, the Big Ten Conference announced on Monday. He will be eligible to return for the conference tournament.
In a statement on Monday, Howard apologized for the first time.
“After taking time to reflect on all that happened, I realize how unacceptable both my actions and words were, and how they affected so many,” Howard said in the statement. “I am truly sorry.”
Michigan forwards Terrance Williams II and Moussa Diabaté, who were involved in the fracas, were suspended for one game each, the conference said. Wisconsin Coach Greg Gard was fined $10,000 for his role in the altercation but not suspended. Wisconsin guard Jahcobi Neath was suspended for one game.
“Big Ten Conference coaches and student-athletes are expected to display the highest level of sportsmanship conduct,” the Big Ten commissioner, Kevin Warren, said in a statement. “Our expectation is that the incident yesterday will provide our coaches and student-athletes with the opportunity to reflect, learn and move forward in a manner that demonstrates decorum and leadership on and off the court.”
Michigan (14-11, 8-7 in the Big Ten) will next play on Wednesday, at home against Rutgers, while the Badgers play Wednesday at Minnesota.
Phil Martelli, a Michigan assistant who won 444 career games at St. Joseph’s and led it to the round of 8 in the 2004 N.C.A.A. tournament, will lead the team in Howard’s absence. Howard will be eligible to return for the Big Ten tournament, which is set for March 9 to 13 in Indianapolis.
“Simply put, there is no room at U.M. for the behavior we saw,” Warde Manuel, Michigan’s athletic director, said in a statement on Monday. “We will learn from this incident as a department, work to improve ourselves while operating under a spotlight, and move forward in a positive light.”
The 6-foot-9 Howard, formerly a longtime N.B.A. player, Miami Heat assistant coach and member of Michigan’s famed “Fab Five” team, did not initially enter the handshake line on Sunday, but came in late.
Gard, who is 5-11, grabbed at Howard’s right elbow to get his attention so they could talk. Howard then tugged at Gard’s shirt, pointed his index finger in Gard’s face and got into a heated discussion with the Wisconsin coach. As the coaches were separated by police officers, assistant coaches and players, Howard slapped the head of Joe Krabbenhoft, the assistant coach. Players from both teams then began pushing and shoving one another.
Gard said afterward in a television interview that Howard was upset because Gard had called a timeout with 15 seconds remaining and Wisconsin up by 15 points. Michigan, which lost, 77-63, was pressing the Wisconsin backups when Gard called the timeout.
Howard said he felt the need to defend himself after Gard initiated contact.
“Touching me unnecessary wasn’t called for when we had talked,” Howard said on Sunday. “And at that point, I thought it was time to protect myself.”
In his statement on Monday, Howard apologized to Krabbenhoft and his family, as well as the Michigan players and their families, his staff, his family and Michigan fans.
“I speak a lot about being a Michigan man and representing the University of Michigan with class and pride,” he said. “I did not do that, nor did I set the right example in the right way for my student-athletes. I will learn from my mistake.”
Michigan, which was ranked as high as No. 4 this season, remains on the bubble for the N.C.A.A. tournament.