ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Show will go on, but even one of college basketball’s most infamous trash-talking student cheering sections felt one of their own had crossed the line with taunts to a University of New Mexico Lobo basketball player.
When news broke that Lobo freshman guard Cullen Neal, the son of head coach Craig Neal, was released from a Sydney hospital on Thursday morning (Wednesday night in Albuquerque), after spending 10 days there with appendicitis, the Twitter account representing the raucous student section at San Diego State University sent out a flurry of tweets wishing infection and even death on the Eldorado High graduate.
The tweets, sent from @TheShowSDSU account with 5,299 followers, were met Wednesday night with serious backlash from Lobo fans who argued that even in a heated rivalry, wishing death upon a rival crosses the lines of decency.
The three initial tweets in question (all appearing as sent out on Twitter) were:
⋄ “fingers crossed for further infection”
⋄ “Dear Mictlantecuhtli, Aztec God of Death, May your will be done in the life and death of Cullen Neal. amen.”
A Thursday morning article written by SportingNews.com’s Mike DeCourcy asked if the school’s administration should step in. It did.
SDSU athletic department officials called a meeting with the student section’s leaders on Thursday morning. By Thursday afternoon, the tweets were deleted and an apology followed.
Though he has not been identified publicly, San Diego State says a former student wrote the messages, including several others suggesting UNM fans should focus more on the state’s low national ranking in poverty and crime than on social media trash talk.
The former student since has had his basketball and football season tickets revoked, and he has no more access to the group’s Twitter account, according to SDSU sports information director Mike May.
“They’re a student section and independent of the athletic department,” May told the Journal . “But obviously we have a very close relationship with them. We value them and they value us. We asked to meet with them about this. When we did, the leaders of the group were as disappointed as we were about what was said.”
NM men’s basketball coach Craig Neal responds on Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, to tweets sent out by the San Diego State student cheering section known as The Show that wished infection and death on Neal’s son and Lobos freshman Cullen Neal.
SDSU’s relationship with the independent student section is so close, the Aztecs football team this season will play with the Show’s trademark logo as a decal on its helmets along with the school’s official logo.
The tweets remained public for all to see until Thursday afternoon, when they were deleted. Then followed two messages: “After conferring w/SDSU ath dept, we realized our tweets regarding UNM hoops were inappropriate. We apologize for the insensitive remarks” and “The individual responsible for the insensitive tweets no longer has access to our account. We hope Cullen Neal has a speedy recovery.”
SDSU athletic director Jim Sterk also sent an emailed apology to UNM athletic director Paul Krebs.
“I don’t know how an athletic department is responsible for the tweets of one fan,” Krebs told the Journal . “I don’t believe the apology was necessary. It was a nice gesture, but I didn’t feel they needed to apologize for what had happened.”
As for what was said in the tweets?
Cullen Neal was hospitalized Aug. 5, the day after the Lobos landed in Sydney for an 11-day trip that included three exhibition basketball games. His mother, Janet Neal, was on the trip and stayed with him in the hospital while the Lobos and Craig Neal traveled around Australia sightseeing and playing basketball. When the Lobos returned to Albuquerque earlier this week, Craig Neal stayed with his wife and son.
The Neal family is expected back in Albuquerque later today and was unavailable for comment on the story. Krebs added that due to the travel he had not yet spoken to the Neals about the subject, either.
For Cullen Neal’s part, however, he promptly “favorited” the Show’s initial tweets, an acknowledgement that they were seen by him and perhaps filed away for future reference.
Before the tweets were deleted, and the back and forth between the former student and Lobo fans continued, the Show’s twitter account said Lobo fans would be very upset to know they were trying to get the green card of UNM junior guard Hugh Greenwood, a citizen of Australia, revoked.
Greenwood responded to that and several other tweets sent about him with a simple message of his own: “Kiss the ring(s),” apparently referring to UNM having won the past two Mountain West Conference basketball regular season and tournament championships.
The Show, considered by many to be one of the loudest, most intimidating and most highly organized student cheer sections in college basketball (they also attend other sporting events), has a history of talking trash to rivals. The group took to Twitter frequently in recent years with very personal attacks on former Lobo Drew Gordon and this past season often criticizing the appearance of former Lobo Tony Snell.