Football players barred from school

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The four who were charged for roles in a beating were not allowed to take finals.

Southeast Missouri State University barred four football players from campus and didn't let them complete their final exams after they were charged last week with assaulting two students.

Southeast president Dr. Ken Dobbins was unsure Wednesday exactly how many exams the players didn't complete. The suspension took effect when the school learned that the four were charged with misdemeanors in the ambush attack at an off-campus fraternity party, he said.

"It was the dean of students who made that decision based on the student code of conduct," Dobbins said. "When there are charges like assaults, violent crimes or drugs, there is a provision for immediate withdrawal from the university."

A final decision on their status as students will be made by the student Judicial Affairs Office sometime after Jan. 1, Dobbins said. The student disciplinary hearing will likely be held before classes resume Jan. 17, he said.

Because the players were suspended before any student disciplinary hearing, a criminal court verdict in their favor would allow them to finish the fall semester coursework, Dobbins said.

Athletic director Don Kaverman announced Dec. 14 that the four were suspended from the football team.

D'Eldrick Taylor, Timmy Holloman, Frederick Williams and Gerald Breedlove were charged Dec. 13 with misdemeanors for the beating of Ransom Ward and Shaun Johnson at the Pi Kappa Alpha lodge on South Sprigg Street. Ward and Johnson reported to Cape Girardeau police that they were jumped, punched and kicked as they were leaving a party early Dec. 4.

Both were left bleeding, with broken noses. Johnson had three teeth severely damaged.

Holloman has a hearing set for Jan. 5 to show he has hired a lawyer. A similar hearing for Williams is set for Jan. 19. Taylor filed a motion for a change of judge, which was granted, and has no set court date.

Breedlove has not yet been arrested.

Only three of the four were actually members of the team when the charges were filed, Kaverman said Wednesday. Breedlove was dismissed from the team in November by former coach Tim Billings, he said, but Kaverman added that he was unsure of the reason.

The decisions of the athletic and academic arms of the university were made separately, Kaverman said.

The players' status as active students will be decided independently of the criminal court processes, dean of students Irene Ferguson said. The student conduct hearing has a much lower threshold of proof than criminal courts.

If the four are suspended or expelled, she said, they may appeal. But that appeal must be filed within five days of a decision and appeals could be exhausted by the time of any criminal court verdict, she said.

All four of the players live outside Missouri. If they choose not to return for student conduct hearings, Ferguson said, a default judgement could be entered against them.

If the players are not suspended as a result of the student disciplinary hearing, they may be able to retain their athletic scholarships, Kaverman said. They must also meet other academic requirements as well, he said. Their grades for the classes where they were unable to take finals could play a role, depending on whether they a failing grade or will be given the opportunity to complete the work.

NCAA rules require students to maintain academic progress and pass a minimum number of courses each semester to remain eligible to play.

New coach Tony Samuel will make a final decision, Kaverman said. "Scholarships are awarded on a year-to-year basis."

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