Gulf South Conference suspends six players in wake of Delta State-Chowan brawl

Published 3:41 pm Monday, September 11, 2023

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Gulf South Conference suspended six Chowan University football players, including one for the season, following a brawl in Saturday’s game against Delta State.

Neither the conference nor Chowan named the players in its statement announcing the penalties. The GSC did say that one of the players has been suspended for the season and barred from the travel squad and stadium for the remainder of the season.

One person not affiliated with the team will also be barred from Chowan’s stadium for the remainder of the season.

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A Chowan player, defensive lineman Nikotis Gordon, can be seen on video swinging his helmet several times at a Delta State player.

No Delta State players were suspended, and at his press conference Monday head coach Todd Cooley said he did not anticipate his team receiving any penalties.

“I’m really proud of our team. We did a good job — coaches and players — restraining,” Cooley said. “So, I do not anticipate any (suspensions). I don’t think there should be any on our side, but at the end of the day, that’s not my decision.”

The GSC said Chowan is also continuing its own investigation and may take other disciplinary measures. Additionally, Chowan will conduct a football game management and security review. The university will submit any findings and new policies to the conference prior to its next home football game on Sept. 23 vs. Benedict College.

The wild brawl ended the game with 4:16 remaining in the fourth quarter, with Delta State leading 42-18. The Statesmen (2-0, 1-0 GSC) were awarded the victory.

The incident started when Delta State’s Tamaj Hoffman broke a 19-yard run down to the Cowhan 20. He went out of bounds on Chowan’s sideline, and some pushing and shoving at the end of the play was being broken up by an official when a Delta State lineman ran over and pushed the Chowan player.

In response, most of Chowan’s team ran over from the bench area and swarmed the DSU lineman. The official was knocked over as well.

During the ensuing melee, Gordon can be seen on video swinging his helmet several times at the Delta State lineman, who was under a pile of bodies.

A few seconds later, Delta State tight end Adam Duncan was pinned against a fence by a separate mob of Chowan players as they continuously threw punches at him. One fan threw a punch at him as well, and another appears to swing or throw a football helmet from behind.

On Sunday,  Cooley posted two videos on X, formerly known as Twitter. On one post, Cooley commented, “So we have helmets coming from the bleachers. Wow. That’s the tweet!” At his weekly press conference on Monday, Cooley made it clear on who he believed started the brawl.

“I didn’t feel like we started it. Still don’t,” Cooley said.

Chowan is spending two seasons in the Gulf South Conference as a football-only affiliate member before becoming a full-time member of the Conference Carolinas in 2025. It is scheduled to play Delta State in Cleveland in 2024.

Monday evening, Chowan’s athletics department issued a public apology.

“Speaking on behalf of the entire Chowan University Department of Athletics, we would like to formally apologize to the Delta State University football players, their coaching staff, fans, and parents for the deplorable behavior that some of our football student-athletes chose to exhibit on Saturday in the final minutes of the fourth quarter,” stated Patrick Mashuda, Chowan’s Director of Athletics. “The behavior shown by some is completely unacceptable and not indicative of the type of program that best represents Chowan University, the athletic department, and the football program.”

Head coach Paul Johnson also issued an apology to the public and to Delta State in Chowan’s statement.

“First and foremost, I want to emphasize that what transpired on the field does not align with the values and principles we hold dear at Chowan University. Our institution stands for sportsmanship, discipline, and respect, both on and off the field. The behavior displayed by some of our players during the incident with Delta State was completely unacceptable and inexcusable,” Johnson said.

“I take full responsibility for the actions of our team, as it is my duty to instill in our players the importance of maintaining composure, even in the heat of competition. I deeply regret that I was unable to prevent this incident from happening, and for that, I am truly sorry,” Johnson added.

Addressing Delta State directly, Johnson stated, “I also want to extend my apologies to the Delta State program and their coaching staff. What happened during the game should never have occurred, and we understand the impact it may have had on your team. We respect you as competitors, and this incident does not reflect the level of sportsmanship we aim to uphold.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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