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Bad Memories : Brown Returns to Cal State Fullerton for First Time Since Fight Nine Years Ago

December 27, 1996|LON EUBANKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

FULLERTON — It has been nine years since Cal State Fullerton and Brown played in men's basketball.

But when the teams meet again Saturday night in Titan Gym, it's certain to rekindle memories of one of Fullerton basketball's most bizarre incidents.

It involved Brown Coach Mike Cingiser scuffling with a Fullerton fan, the coach's players rushing to his side in a bench-clearing melee, and three Titan fans being taken into custody by university police.

It was December 1987, and the first meeting between the teams. It didn't take much time, however, for the Titans to establish their basketball superiority--or for Fullerton fans to begin heckling the Ivy Leaguers when it happened.

And Bill Harvey, the self-proclaimed No. 1 Titan fan at the time, was at the top of his game, leading the taunts. Harvey could quickly become an opposing team's worst nightmare.

With about five minutes left in the first half, Cingiser must have decided that enough of Harvey's act was enough.

Cingiser walked down the opposite sideline, turned at the end of the court, crossed the floor and headed straight for Harvey, who was facing the other direction at the time.

As Harvey turned around, the two collided. "There was this huge guy lunging at me," Harvey said at the time. "I was knocked to the ground."

Other fans jumped in, along with Brown players, and it took more than 10 minutes for security personnel to restore order.

"I saw the coach hit Bill, and I probably was one of the first to get to his defense," said Michael Bader, one of the Titan fans involved. "I remember I had the coach by the coat and got him to the ground. After that, all I remember was the rush of people. It turned into, well, one of those donnybrooks."

After calm was restored, Bill Harvey and his brother, Roger, were escorted from the gym. "I followed them out of the gym and said something to the police about the way they were treating them," Bader said, "and then they put me in custody too."

Bader recalls that the three of them were detained about two hours, then released.

"They reviewed the film of the game, and I guess they decided what we did was in self-defense," Bader said.

Play finally resumed with a technical foul being called against Cingiser for leaving the coaching area, but George McQuarn, the Titan coach, told reporters that referee Al Hackney had given him the option of having Cingiser ejected and awarding the Titans 28 technical foul shots, two for each Brown player and coach involved.

"I wanted to play basketball," McQuarn told reporters. "The last thing I wanted was the coach out of the game and 28 foul shots."

Fullerton went on to win, 106-60.

Harvey later filed a complaint against Cingiser, and after further review of the incident, Cingiser was charged with disorderly conduct and misdemeanor assault. Harvey told police he had bruises, a neck injury and his watch had been broken.

Two months later, Cingiser pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of disturbing the peace and was fined $100.

Cingiser, a former player at Brown, coached three more seasons, but resigned under pressure in 1991, ending a 10-year career at Brown with a 93-170 record and only one winning season. He was replaced by the current coach, Frank Dobbs.

Cingiser now teaches at a high school in Beaufort, S.C., but no longer coaches.

"Not a lick," he said.

And Cingiser said he definitely has no interest in recalling the Fullerton game, much less the incident. "I'd rather not comment on anything about it," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's over and forgotten, and I'd like to keep it that way."

The 1987-88 season turned out to be McQuarn's last at Fullerton. He resigned after the Titans finished with a 12-17 record, ending his eight-year career there. He now is an assistant coach at Arizona State.

Harvey is in Peru visiting his wife's relatives and was not available for comment, but his father said his son is no longer involved with Titan athletics.

Harvey, who was 34 at the time of the incident, formerly was a teacher at an intermediate school in Santa Ana, and now owns a business in Costa Mesa that specializes in language education services.

"He got so busy with other things, he didn't stay involved with the sports program," said his father, Roger. "He's written several books on teaching and learning Spanish, and is involved in various civic things."

Bader says he doesn't recall seeing Harvey in Titan Gym since the infamous game.

"I saw him at a few road games for a while after that, but not in Titan Gym," Bader said. "I think he had been under some criticism by the school anyway. But in those days, the cheerleaders would do a cheer, and everyone would go ho-hum. Then Bill would do the same cheer and the place would erupt."

Bader laments the way the program has fallen on hard times in recent years. "I've had season tickets since 1979, but I didn't go to one game last season and haven't been to one this season," he said.

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