It’s rare when the first thirty seconds of a match are the most memorable, but the incident in the first half minute of Sunday’s clash between Texas A&M and Baylor nonetheless will linger long in the memory of both sets of coaches, players, and supporters as both the beginning of a tense and fractious night and the likely end of the Battle of the Brazos for the immediate future as the bad blood threatened to boil over by the end of a somewhat dour scoreless draw.
The actual event isn’t in much dispute. Baylor’s Vic Hoffman went in with a tackle that injured Texas A&M forward Annie Kunz and saw her carted off and on crutches later in the game, though she, thankfully, seems to have avoided catastrophic injury. Hoffman saw yellow, Aggie supporters saw red, and a long and bruising night of scoreless soccer was to be only the beginning of the furor.
The very active and vocal Aggie support did not take long to lob accusations that Hoffman’s challenge had been deliberately planned to injure Kunz at the beginning of the game. Beyond some incensed message board posts (we’ll ignore the rather misguided calls for retaliation from some of the Aggie posters), tweets from some close to the A&M program, including Aggie Radio announcer David Ellis affirmed the belief that Hoffman had acted with premeditated intent to injure Kunz at the beginning of the match.
Relations between the coaches in the immediacy of the incident and after the match were frosty or fiery depending on your point of view. This picture was apparently making the rounds on twitter after the match:
Texas A&M head coach G. did not mince words in a match report from Ronnie Woodard on TexAgs.com:
“The tone was set when their coaches sent their player to try to break [Kunz’s] leg,” said A&M head coach G Guerrieri. “Their kid goes out under instruction from their coaches within the first 10 seconds and tries to break Annie Kunz’s leg, and almost did.”
“It scares me to put anyone out against a team like that. I know this team like the back of my hand, it’s what they do,” concluded Guerrieri. “I see these players like my own kids. I hate when someone comes out and tries to hurt my kids.”
To put it bluntly, these are severe accusations. The notion that a coaching staff would deliberately set out to injure an opposing player in such a blatant and reckless fashion is particularly heinous. The big question is about the veracity of the claims from Guerrieri where there is (understandably) a very high burden of proof. Baylor’s reputation as a program unafraid of physical play under co-head coaches Marci and Paul Jobson has been inarguable, though few have labeled them overtly dirty as Guerrieri did.
The enmity is hardly a new thing, as after a previous encounter between the clubs, Guerrieri spoke on Twitter (and I’m paraphrasing here) about how hard it was to play an opposing team that just wanted to kick you about. Still, despite both clubs knowing what they were getting themselves into, few probably could have foreseen the events of Sunday evening and its aftermath. For their part, the Baylor camp has been mostly silent about the incident other than a few droll comments in their version of the match report.
The question is, what now? The fact that this was a non-conference match doesn’t exactly make it easy to appeal to some organizing body for some punitive action against Baylor, Re: Hoffman and the coaching staff. Even if there was some sort of investigation, the burden of proof is likely so large, any dramatic sanction is unlikely. Video of the incident hasn’t been released, and I suspect, may never see the light of day. The court of public opinion has largely been dominated by the outrage of the Aggie supporters, though if video of the tackle does become available, others may weigh in and at least force Baylor to acknowledge the incident.
Otherwise, I wouldn’t expect Baylor to speak of the matter, so largely, it may be a dead issue pragmatically. Ironically, head referee Cory Rockwell may come out worst. Aggie supporters were quick to slate his performance, though whether the A&M coaching staff files an official complaint is a mystery.
A postseason rematch in the NCAA Tournament is possible due to geography but unlikely, with one or both clubs likely to be seeded if they fare well in league play. From all indications though, the series as a non-conference event appears to be dead, with it likely that neither side will be eager to schedule the other for the foreseeable future. After last night, perhaps that’s a good thing.