Bread City Basketball


MINNESOTA vs. OHIO BRAWL, 1972

As our team sat in the dark, dingy locker room … I emerged from a near-comatose state and jumped up, wanting to finish the game. I have no memory of anything that occured from halftime to the next morning … What happens to the human psyche when a person suffers traumatic harm? What does a person do with the deluge of emotions that infiltrates his mind and changes from minute to minute? One minute I felt that everything would be fine, that healing was happening. The next minute all I could think about was hatred and retribution … Emotionally and philosophically, I was in a crisis. Ron Behagan, Clyde Turner, Corky Taylor, and Coach Bill Musselman had become objects of what philosophers Jeffrie G. Murphy and Jean Hampton call ‘moral hatred.’ … After college, I played for a few years with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA, but I never played with the same intensity of enjoyment that I had before the Minnesota game.

– Luke Witte’s post-brawl account is excerpted from an essay on forgiveness in Basketball and Philosophy. Sports Illustrated called the fight “the most vicious attack in college basketball lore.” This was Witte’s face. He is now a pastor.

About these ads

21 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I watched this game on TV with my father. I was sixteen years old and , even by then, a big Buckeye basketball fan. I’ll never forget the horror of watching this whole unbelievable scene unfold. By the time I got over the initial shock, I became outraged as I saw one Buckeye heaved into the fists of waiting Gopher fans in the stands by two Minnesota players.

Even more outrageous than the brutal attack was how quickly the whole thing was swept under the rug by Big Ten officals. Fred Taylor, one of the best coaches in Big Ten history was incredulous, calling it a “bush league” reaction. Despite being ranked as a top five team at the time of the attack, the Ohio State basketball program sank quickly into oblivion. It would take over six years for the program to recover.

Watching this horror again, for the first time in 37 years, makes me sick, especially for the lasting harm it did to Fred Taylor and all the fine Buckeye payers who would never be the same after the senseless bloodletting.

Minnesota BOO!

Comment by M. Stephen Lamb

My dad and I were big OSU basketball fans. I was 21 at the time and went over to my mom and dad’s house to watch the game as we always did. The game was a low scoring, close game up to the last 30 secs. That’s when all hell broke loose. I recall that Luke Witte went up for a layup and Minnesota center Jim Brewer fouled him, hard. I think Brewer got tossed from the game. Corky Taylor reached a hand down to Witte in what appeared as a gesture of sportsmanship. Jerking Witte to his feet, Taylor then kneed Witte in the groin. Dave Merchant, an OSU guard shoved Taylor away from the writhing Witte. Several scuffles broke out on the floor and then the Gophers Ron Behagen ran from the bench to the prone Witte and stomped several times on Witte’s head. Dave Winfield was chasing Merchant up the court grabbing his jersey and ripping it off. I also remember some fan jumping OSU forward Wardell Jackson under the basket and Wardell then clocking the fan back about 2 rows into the stands. My dad and I were on our feet in front of the tv screaming at the screen like a couple of nuts. I thought my dad was gonna have a stroke. He was so enraged. OSU was not the same team afterwards. And really not for several years. OSU coach Fred Taylor was quoted upon his retirement 4 yrs. later as having lost his love of the game after the incident. Sports Illustrated next issue had the cover – “The Mugging in Minnesota.” It is a terrible memory and OSU fans who witnessed it will never forget it and always have poison in their hearts for Minnesota.

Comment by dave crabtree

The total lack of control during this game by the Minnesota team, coaches, and fans will, and should, always cast a dark pall over the school’s reputation. To permit such heinous acts by players such as Corky Calhoun, Dave Winfield, and especially Ron Behagen is indicative of the mindset of entire the U of Minnesota. To allow Behagen, whose family has obviously not been out of the trees for more than 1 generation, to continue at the school is repulsive. Today, as I sit and watch OSU thrash the Gophers in the BIg 10 championship game I can only feel a morsel of revenge for the incident that occurred way back then. I think I can hear Luke Witte saying: “Hey Gopher, Behagen, go fetch the trophy for my wining Buckeyes.”

Comment by Robert Miller

I went to high school with Luke Witte. He was a class act. He was a good sportsman. This is the first time I ever knew what happened, why his basketball career was cut so short. This is truly sad, and that those people got away with that kind of brutality is absolutely terrible. Luke is a class act, and would never hurt anyone, and that is why, I am sure he did not press charges. He is doing a far greater work now that is for sure. He does not make the money he could have otherwise, but I can just imagine his life/career has been much more worthwhile than the careers of those other players from Minnesota. I am sure they have had to live with that, and continue to live with that. What a great guy Luke truly is.

Comment by BJTA

The incident, of course, was an appalling one. Not just for Bill Musselman’s stupidity, but for the fact that these black players committed these acts racially.
Luke Witte has proven to be a remarkable man. If this was the only such incident, I too could forget it. But it isn’t.
Tyler Hansbrough was attacked by Duke’s Gerald Henderson.
Steve Nash has been attacked a number of times.
So have a number of other good white basketball players who outplay blacks on the court.
There is an issue here, and it must be dealt with.
Because if it isn’t, there will be another Luke Witte, and one is already too many.

Comment by GERRY SCHULTZ

I don’t remember reading anything that said the fight was racially motivated. If you think white athletes are less violent than black athletes, I suggest you watch a game of hockey.

Comment by Jake

I watched this game on tv. I thought all 4 or 5 Gophers should have been jailed for assault, and probably their coach. The school should have been put on probation with no athletics for a year but nothing ever happened. This was outrageous to Buckeye fans. And to think, The Big Ten Channel picked Dave Winfield as one of their top 50 Icons of the Big Ten.

Comment by rOBERT a. HANSON

Did Minisota have a player on their roster by name Darnell Martin at the time of incident?

Comment by Joe delph

memory lane, and yes I am from Ohio…I saw this game and could not believe me eyes…..the Minnessota players involved were lowlifes….thugs….whatever you want to say about racism…..who cares….they did this unspeakable act, sucker punching players….chasing them around the court hitting them from all angles…for what?…..because they were loosing, not because of some flimsy excuse later used about a foul in the first half that was not called……DO NOT forget Dave Winfield, the Gophers 6-6 power forward was in on this too….I never forgave any of them…even though Behagen played with Maravich later in the pros…I still hated him

Comment by Joe Heidkamp

I was nine years old when this incident happened and somehow happened to see a clip of it on television. I can remember feeling horrified by what I was seeing. I probably didn’t know the words depraved and sinister at the time; but that was definitely the feeling state. I had long forgotten about this, but as an adult came across this video and still feel as shocked and appalled as I did at the age of nine. And the fact that the incident was swept under the rug at the time seems mind-boggling to me now.

Comment by kellyjane

The video should start with Witte elbowing the Minnesota player on the way to the locker room at halftime to put the entire incident in context. Not to justify the events but Witte had a reputation of being enthusiastically physical shall we say. Witte and OSU were notorious for being cheap shot artist, if your gonna do the crime you have to do the time. There were several incidents during that Big Ten season where Witte and company got real dirty and got away with it, pay back …

Comment by Marc May

An elbow on the way to the locker room doesn’t justify the magnitude of the incident. Get a life and face the fact that minnesota should have been banned from athletics for the balance of the year and for all of the following. In today’s environment, all the minnesota players would have gone to jail.

Face it, it’s a blemish on the record of the gophers that OSU alumni won’t ever forget.

Comment by Rock Randall

There is no doubt that this a racially motivated attack as the only players who were injured after being blindsided and sucker punched were white.

Comment by kryp44

34 Years ago… let it go!

Comment by k

I was at this game-sitting in the third row center court. It was a tough game-both teams were very good and playing hard-too hard and rough. The refs lost control of this game early on and several players-including Witte should have been ejected for their “dirty” play Saw many times when Witte “cleared” out the lane after a rebound by throwing an elbow to the head of a Gopher player-he was no saint. However, when Taylor kneed Witte in the groin after helping him up was way “out of bounds”. The stomping on Witte’s head/face by Behagen and Winfield’s sucker punching players during the onsuing melee was above the line- it should have marked them as questionable human beings-but this is the atmosphere that coach Musselman encouraged. I went to a Gopher Booster luncheon the next week and Winfield was there “in his eloquent” and self denial persona. At this point, I divorced myself from Gopher BB and lost all respect for the low class Dave Winfield.

Comment by Steve

As an avid Gopher fan at the tme-I was ashamed. We sank to the lowest depths-but we got who we recruited-Behagen, Brewer, Taylor-and to a lesser extent Winfield. All had tough backgrounds and all were given chances by an equally questionable Musselman.

Comment by Steve

May ‘The Barn’ be burned down for this atrocity. Dave Winfield may he rot in hell for beating a prone Mark Wagger numerous times. Jim Brewer should issue a public apology to all of Buckeye Nation as he was also a ‘racial’ culprit. Now, Ron Behagen stole thousands from an old lady with dementia (3/2012). Funny, how thugs repeat animalistic actions.
Why hasn’t anyone asked Dave Winfield some serious questions?? Why are we are chickenshits for letting the media sweep this under the rug.
Maybe we need a barnburner!!!

Comment by Jimmie Crum

I went to the U of M at the time of this disgusting incident. I knew all of the offenders personally. Clyde, Corky, Ron & David Winfield, & his lovely Mother, Arlene. The behavior was unacceptable, to say the least. I am still embarrassed about how the whole situation was handled. Ron is 61 now & on probation for stealing from an elderly woman. David is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, he obviously was a great athlete, drafted, by the pros, in 3 sports! Lack of respectable coaching by Bill Musselman & overall attitude of disrespect for opposing teams surely contributed to the inappropriate behavior of the racially motivated immature players. It was a different time then, so much has changed, but still . . WRONG is WRONG!

Comment by Mary Kuhnley

Yeah I remember watching the game, i was about 14 years old and was a fan of Ohio state Basketball,in 1971 as a predominately young team led by Jim Clemons they won the Big 10 and got to the sweet 16 in the NCAA. In 1972 minus a graduated Clemons they were pick to win it again,and was leading the conference by a game over the Minnesota leading to that early showdown in Williams Arena. The buckeyes were leading by a deuce when Witte when’t up for that lay up. as said all hell broke out it was a stigmatic incident that put a damper on the Minnesota program, though not sanction wise.It destroyed the psyche and continuity of the Ohio State program in which they never recovered from! As I recall I believe Minneapolis when’t on to win the Big !0 that year. Racially motivated I don’t know but you have to remember not to far removed from Martin Luther Kings murder,the obliteration of the Black Panther party through violence; the Soldad Brothers incident intertwined with Angela Davis trump charges! The sports world would witness frustrations coming from all end in this may lay on a college campus…

Comment by Ivan

I can still remember watching this game. I was in high school and was interested in the game due in part to a Sports Illustrated feature earlier about Bill Mussleman as coach at Ashland College in Ohio. Mussleman believed he could get a shutout and some Ashland games were really low scoring (before the shot clock). I was totally shocked and still remember Luke’s head being bounced repeatedly off the floor. Luke never played the same again. The reports after the game blamed Mussleman for whipping his players into a frenzy around some black-white thing. The Big Ten totally swept this under the rug. No doubt this wrecked Coach Taylor’s career, Luke Witte life and OSU basketball program for years.

Comment by K E Boggs

Dave Winfield never apologized. a real class act!!

Comment by bill kraft




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s