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Sunday Morning Quarterback

Sunday Morning Quarterback

Thursday, April 06, 2006

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The week in eligibility-crippling issues - legal, academic, institutional and otherwise...

The chatter around these parts this week, obviously, has been the arrest and subsequent suspension of six players accused of assaulting a plain-clothes cop during a bar fight at the undoubtedly spectacular Level III Civic Sports & Cultural Center in StarkVegas over the weekend:
Coach Sylvester Croom suspended the players "indefinitely" from the team, meaning they won't practice this week or play in Saturday's Maroon & White spring game.

The suspension is one of several disciplinary measures Croom announced for the six freshmen players arrested on a felony charge: cornerback Derek Pegues and safety Keith Fitzhugh, both starters; offensive tackle Michael Gates, quarterback Tray Rutland, and defensive ends Charles Burns and Quinton Wesley.

The six players are accused of assaulting Starkville police officer Demetric Armstead, who was off duty, during a fight at a downtown business.

Croom said he made his decision Monday night, after he concluded his investigation. By that point, he said, he had spoken with several parties on all sides, including the six players.

"Those who are fortunate enough to play football at this level are in a fishbowl," Croom said. "These things happen, but you can see them coming before they occur. You can avoid these situations or diffuse them as quickly as possible. That's what did not happen and why the incident took place."
SMQ gives journalistic kudos on this report to the CL's State beat writer, Ian Rappaport, who went further than a lot of reporters would to show there's likely a lot more than the blind anti-social rage of spoiled athletes at play here:
One witness disagrees with some aspects of the police report, which states that Armstead was attacked while attempting to break up a fight between two women.

MSU freshman Dorothy "Dot" Youmans said she was at the Level III Civic Sports & Cultural Center that night. Youmans, who said she has been contacted by Perry, claims the players were trying to stop the women from fighting.

"Then this guy with a white-colored shirt, who was later identified as (Armstead), pushes Tray Rutland out of the way," said Youmans, a Poplarville native who is on the MSU track team. "Instead of trying to find out what was going on, (Armstead) just pushed him, like, 'Get out the way.' The next thing I knew, they were fighting."
Youmans said she did not hear anyone identify Armstead as a policeman.

"There was no 'I'm a cop' or 'I have control of the situation' or anything," said Youmans, who added that she left shortly after the fight started. "It was so loud in the club, I don't know how anyone could've heard it. To them, he was just another guy in the club."
SMQ would be up for the usual in-state schadenfreude if athletic representatives of his favored institution hadn't also been suspended for a bar fight last year, and if he thought any of these guys were going to be major players for MSU this fall; other than Pegues (pronounced 'PIG-ees,' like the George Harrison song) - who he watched absolutely trash the defense of the school where father of SMQ currently serves as athletic director in the 2004 5-A State Championship game - SMQ has never heard of any of them.

He has, however, heard of Reuben Houston and Marcus Randle El, both sentenced to varying probation stints this week. For Houston, the blow came for being one of 19 arrested in a California ring set up to distribute exceedingly large quantities of pot:
Houston, 23, was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court to charges of conspiracy and attempt to distribute 92 pounds of marijuana. He pleaded guilty to the charges after his June arrest.

“I realize that in this situation I exercised bad judgment. I do apologize for the decision I made,” Houston said.

The Georgia Tech cornerback was kicked off the team following his arrest until a court order put him back on the team. He has since graduated. (Hat tip: Paul Westerdawg)
Ah, the proverbial "bad judgment," the exercise of which - on not one but two occasions - saddled short-fused little brother Randle El with a sentence twice the length of Houston's:
Randle El was placed on probation for 18 months after a plea agreement with prosecutors on charges stemming from a fight last December.

Randle El, 19, a sophomore and the brother of NFL wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery for his alleged role in a fight with former teammate Nick Sutton. A misdemeanor count of bail-jumping was dismissed.

Dane County Circuit Judge Steven Ebert also entered a guilty plea Monday on a charge of disorderly conduct, which stemmed from an incident last spring involving Randle El and his girlfriend. His sentencing had been deferred under a first offender's program, but the later arrest violated that placement.

Under conditions of probation, he must either take anger-management classes or undergo counseling for domestic violence.

"I think you have a problem controlling your temper," the judge said.

He also was barred from engaging in any violent acts against his girlfriend or having any contact with Sutton. (emphasis SMQ's)
Violent acts against his girlfriend will surely cease now that a restriction has been placed on such acts - finally! Violence against other individuals, apparently, remains okay.

Most serious item of the week goes this week to former Central Michigan safety Michael L. Thomas, sentenced to 15 years Tuesday after pleading no contest to manslaughter last month in yet another bar fight, this one from 2004:
The judge said Thomas had to be held accountable despite the positives in his life before the June 2004 beating of DeMarcus Graham, 26, of Flint. Graham died 19 days later.

Ervin said the lives of Graham's family members were torn apart after his death. Thomas someday will get to know his son, while Graham's child won't know his father, the judge said.

"What happened that evening, there's no excuse for it," Ervin told Thomas. "Suffice to say, (Graham) was beaten to a pulp."
Gruesome, and not finally put behind us so the can healing begin and we can move forward at last: eight more trials in the case are set for the next three months, including three for ex-players accused of second-degree, involuntary manslaughter and another for perjury an obstruction of justice.

Also on the docket this week:

Underage Ohio State offensive lineman Alex Boone arrested for driving under the influence, a first offense that probably won't keep the projected starter out of the lineup in the fall - though it will, apparently, put him in the school's dreaded substance abuse and counseling program;

Kansas State defensive back Justin McKinney was picked up last Sunday on a warrant for writing a bad check. No word on a suspension from new Coach Ron Prince, who is planning to "let the judicial system run its course." (Hat tip: EDSBS)

Further west, Walt Harris suspended two players for the always fun "conduct inconsistent with the goals of the Stanford football program," which in recent years has included, among other offenses, winning (too easy - sorry). Strong safety Brandon Harrison and tight end Matt Traverso "have built a challenging road for themselves," but may be back on the field in the fall;

And last - and probably least - Bob Stoops has booted punter Cody Freeby, who "has not lived up to his responsibilities or expectations with the team or academically" or "followed through on the disciplinary measures that resulted in those areas." Hey, unlike some Sooner opponents, at least the guy was consistently on the field in punting situations.
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