League to act on Ukrop incident

November 23, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

National Professional Soccer League commissioner Steve Paxos promises "action to some extent" regarding the incident in which Spirit rookie Rob Ukrop suffered a broken jaw.

Ukrop was struck twice in the jaw by the Harrisburg Heat's Denis Hamlett, first by a shoulder and then by an elbow, in the fourth quarter of the Spirit's 19-17 victory Friday night.

Coach Kenny Cooper called it a "vicious hit." Yesterday, Spirit vice-president Drew Forrester sent a WMAR-TV tape showing the incident and a three-page report to Paxos at NPSL headquarters in Canton, Ohio. The Spirit's game film did not show the incident because it occurred away from the ball.

"In a few days, after we review the tapes and reports, there will definitely be action one way or another," Paxos said. "It could be a suspension or a fine, but some action to some extent."

Ukrop underwent surgery Saturday night to repair his jaw, broken in two places, now wired shut for four weeks and reinforced by a permanent plate. He has returned to his home in Richmond, Va., and will be out at least eight weeks.

Ukrop, a former Davidson star who led NCAA Division I in scoring last year with 72 points, had scored six goals in five games for the undefeated Spirit.

"We lost a guy with the potential to be a star," said Cooper as the Spirit prepared for its game against the unbeaten Milwaukee Wave (3-0) tomorrow night at 7:05 at the Baltimore Arena. "With a full season, he might have scored 100 points. He's such a great young man, with charisma, the will to win and a hunger to learn."

It infuriated Cooper that while Ukrop was on the floor, half conscious, bleeding from the mouth and in pain, the Heat's Franklin McIntosh and Lee Tschantret stood over him and taunted him.

Two Spirit players reported hearing McIntosh say: "Get up, you [bleep]. You're a weak [bleep]." They said Tschantret said: "Bleed, [bleep], keep bleeding."

Harrisburg coach Jim Pollihan, who once played for and coached under Cooper, said the Heat "will look into it," meaning the incident. When he learned about the severity of the injury over the weekend, he phoned Ukrop in the hospital Sunday night.

"I talked to Denis after the game and he felt it was more a reaction thing after he and Rob got tangled up together and he was trying to get out," Pollihan said. "I hope it wasn't a thought-out type of thing. I hope it was reaction. I didn't see it happen. I will talk to Denis again."

In his letter to Paxos, Forrester wrote: "The incident was an ugly display of intentional harm by Hamlett, and then to see McIntosh and Tschantret taunt an injured player should be enough to warrant some form of punishment. . . . We ask that you . . . offer a just punishment to Denis Hamlett and some form of compensation to the Spirit and/or Rob Ukrop."

The Spirit's medical bill will be more than $5,000, Forrester said.

In Ukrop, the Spirit not only lost a high scorer but also a target man, a forward who sometimes plays with his back to the goal and is able to take physical abuse.

Like Ukrop, the team's other target men, Tarik Walker and Dan O'Keefe, are 6 feet 2 and between 185 and 200. Clark Brisson, 5-10 and 175, a target man with his former team, the Canton Invaders, will alternate with Walker and O'Keefe for now.

Meanwhile, Cooper is looking for another player, preferably a big one, who's available.

Spirit on TV

At least four Spirit games will be televised by ESPN and ESPN2 this season under a three-year contract between the network and the NPSL. ESPN will carry the All-Star game Feb. 22 and the championship finals.

ESPN2 will carry as many as 20 games, including these involving the Spirit: Dec. 17, Detroit Rockers; Feb. 4, at Buffalo Blizzard; Feb. 11, Buffalo Blizzard; March 11, Cleveland Crunch. All four games are at 7 p.m., not 7:35 as originally scheduled.

Miscellaneous

In tomorrow night's battle of unbeatens, former Spirit Michael King will return to the Baltimore Arena as Milwaukee's leading scorer with 16 points. His stint here last season ended after 15 games when he underwent major knee surgery. . . . The Canton Invaders' Kia was named NPSL Player of the Week after scoring five goals, including the game-winner in overtime, in a 17-16 victory over the Dayton Dynamo.

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