Southeast Missouri State University cornerback Dimitri Patterson, who made two NCAA Division I-AA All-American teams following a standout junior season, will not finish his playing career with the Indians.
Patterson said Sunday he recently informed Indians' coaches that he plans to leave Southeast following the current semester in order to transfer to Tuskegee University, an NCAA Division II school in Alabama, where he will play his final season of college football this fall.
Patterson said he is leaving Southeast because of basic philosophical differences within the Indians' program, although he would not elaborate.
"I've been contemplating leaving SEMO for a while. We just weren't on the same page," Patterson said. "I had disagreements with a lot of things, not only the coaches, but there were a lot of things I didn't agree with on or off the field.
"It's just a whole lot of things. As far as one of the specific reasons, I feel I can play at the next level, and I feel like this would help me a lot to get there."
Patterson led a group of Southeast players who, several days following the Indians' Nov. 22 loss to Jacksonville State that ended their season, met with athletic director Don Kaverman to voice complaints regarding several areas of the program.
But Kaverman said at the time he did not perceive the situation to be any more than normal frustration following a season that did not go as well as anticipated.
The Indians, following an 8-4 record and national ranking in 2002 for their winningest season since 1969, were picked to win their first Ohio Valley Conference title in 2003. Southeast lost its first five games, recovered to win five of six and would have gained a share of the OVC crown and earned its first I-AA playoff berth by beating Jacksonville State. But the Gamecocks prevailed 22-17 in Cape Girardeau. The Indians finished 5-7 overall and tied for third in the OVC at 5-3.
"That stuff that went on with Kaverman ... the intent was never to get the coaches fired or anything," Patterson said. "The intent was I wanted to inform him of some things that were going on that I didn't agree with, and to let him know I was contemplating leaving."
Patterson, a 6-foot, 195-pound native of Orlando, Fla., started during all three of his seasons with the Indians. This past season, he led the OVC with six interceptions and 12 passes broken up, earning first-team all-conference honors while being named a second-team All-American by The Sports Network and a third-team All-American by The Associated Press.
"Making those All-American teams was nice, and I enjoyed meeting the people here and making friends," Patterson said. "But things just didn't work out like I wanted."
Patterson said he was attracted to Tuskegee, a historically black college, because of its rich athletic and academic tradition. Tuskegee went 5-6 on the football field in 2003 but compiled a 52-7 record over the previous five seasons.
"They have a good tradition and have put a lot of guys out to the next level, and they've got very good academics," said Patterson, who said he is majoring in business management.
As Southeast head coach Tim Billings prepares for the start of the national letter of intent signing period Wednesday, he is faced with having to hire two new coordinators.
It was reported several weeks ago that Billings decided not to rehire offensive coordinator Russ Martin, who served in that capacity during all four seasons that Billings has been at Southeast.
Also leaving is defensive coordinator Shannon Morrison, who recently accepted a similar position at I-AA Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. Morrison has been in charge of the Indians' defense the past three seasons after serving as defensive backs coach for one year.