Professional Indoor Football League Compliance Director Jeff Gonos is in the process of sorting out what led to the brawl between the Panthers and Hammer at the end of their game this past Saturday and whether there will be any fines or suspensions --- as well as taking steps to ensure something like this doesn't happen again between any teams in the first-year arena league.
Jeff Gonos has quite the task in front of him this week.
The Professional Indoor Football League’s Compliance Director is the point man in charge of sorting out the penalties and consequences that could be handed down following an ugly scene at the Von Braun Center in Hunstville, Ala., this past Saturday when the Albany Panthers and Alabama Hammers decided to end their Week 10 meeting with punches, rather than handshakes. Albany won the game, 59-40, to improve to a PIFL-best 8-1, while Alabama fell to 2-7 — the second-worst mark in the league — although not before frustrations boiled over and chaos broke out after the final play.
“It’s a unique situation,” Gonos said in a telephone interview with The Herald on Tuesday. “We haven’t had to deal with anything like this so far this year, and there’s some unique circumstances surrounding it in terms of determining what happened (and which players were at fault).”
Gonos further added that what makes this scenario “unique” was that — as of Tuesday, three days removed from the brawl — he was still in the fact-gathering stages. And, unfortunately, he was getting no where fast.
“The process is kind of broken here. We have no video evidence to review because the cameras were shut off after the last play. And the officials had left the field before it happened. They exited after the final play, plus they saw a situation unfolding that wasn’t safe, so their (standard end-of-the-game) report ends at the final play and doesn’t include any details on what happened because they didn’t see it,” Gonos said. “Then, I contacted the security officials at the Von Braun Center and was told that their security officers had their backs to the fight in an effort to keep fans from going onto the field, so they didn’t see what happened either. Our best hope is to track down some security footage from the Von Braun Center that may show us what happened, but we’re not sure if that’s available either. As of (Tuesday), I still hadn’t received it.
“So these are some of the challenges we’re facing right now. Like any situation that arises within a league, we’re trying to do our due diligence, gather all the evidence and not jump to an conclusions.”
In observance of Memorial Day weekend, all six teams in the PIFL are off this week and games won’t resume until June 2, but Gonos said the bye week won’t change the fact that “we hope to have it addressed quickly and have an official statement before the end of the week.”
Gonos said the standard process for handing out penalties, fines and suspensions in the PIFL — if, in fact, this situation warrants such measures — is handled by an appointed five-member committee that includes Gonos, Panthers GM Will Carter, Panthers owner Rod Chappell, Louisiana Swashbucklers owner Chris Meaux and Joe Stroud, the GM of the Hammers.
Gonos, however, is overseeing the inquiry at this point and said Tuesday that, in lieu of visual evidence of the fight, he was requested e-mails from both head coaches — the Panthers’ Lucious Davis and the Hammers’ Marty Hammond — “explaining the events as they saw it.”
Davis, however, gave his version of the events late Saturday night in a telephone interview from Hunstville with The Herald shortly after the game.
And he was clear when he said he didn’t expect any type of repercussions for his players, whom Davis claims were simply defending themselves after dealing with what he described as “cheap shots” by the Hammers both during and after the game.
“My guys didn’t start anything. Their guys threw the first punches. Now, don’t get me wrong, my guys threw punches back, but they started the whole altercation and — honestly — that stuff was going on the whole game,” Davis said Saturday. “There was cheap shots by them all night. I guess, at the end, they didn’t like the fact we were still trying to score (despite being up 19). But when we played them earlier this year in Albany, I tried to run out the clock and they called a timeout, so I didn’t know if they were going to do that again. So we ran our plays.”
When Gonos was asked Tuesday whether the officials’ end-of-the-game report detailed any of the “cheap shots” Davis alluded too, Gonos said they did not.
“Their report, had they felt there was any dirty play, would’ve shown that unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were called, but there was nothing like that documented in their report,” he said. “We don’t have any room for dirty play in this league, and had there been some, it would’ve gotten a flag and been documented.
“What we’re focused on right now is not what happened during the game because it appears — according to their reports — that everything was played within the rules and between the whistles. What we’re focused on is what transpired at the end of the game, why it happened, how we can avoid it happening again and to set a standard to protect the integrity of our league. Some opponents react differently to one another — some have good history and some have bad. These two teams had no history other than the one time they played, and there were no incidents then, so there was nothing to indicate this is something that was coming.”
Gonos added that the PIFL rulebook is clear in how situations like this are dealt with.
“Any time you strike an opponent, whether it be with a fist or knee, it warrants an ejection. The first ejection results in a fine — usually their game-day check — and a second ejection during a season warrants a fine and a suspension,” he said. “But since this happened after the final play — and there were no officials there and (thus) no ejections — that’s another reason this is a unique situation.”
Moving forward and looking ahead to what this could mean for the Panthers’ roster once they return to the field June 2 for their regular-season home finale against the Knoxville Knighthawks, those PIFL guidelines are potentially good news for any Albany player deemed to have been involved once the league settles the matter. That’s because no Panthers player this season has received even one ejection other than DB Levance Richmond, who was ejected for throwing a punch during the game against the Columbus Lions three weeks ago, then subsequently kicked off the team by Davis.