Morgan gets its sit-in with school vice president Downs hosts meetings, looks to resolve dispute

November 24, 1992|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

Morgan State's vice president for student affairs said that better communication, and not the firing of any coaches, would solve the internal problems that plague the Bears' football program.

Dr. Raymond Downs held meetings yesterday with head coach Ricky Diggs, defensive coordinator L. C. Cole, Morgan State's other assistant coaches, and a cross-section of players in an attempt to resolve a dispute that led to the forfeit of last Saturday's season-ending game with Bethune-Cookman.

"Tomorrow [today] I'll give my assessment to the president [Dr. Earl S. Richardson] along with a recommendation," Downs said. "A statement will come from him. We want to try to get this done before we go home for the Thanksgiving holiday.

"We're not so much interested in getting rid of people as we are solving this. Our philosophy is that we've got talented people, and we want to keep them."

Last Wednesday, Downs received a petition signed by 69 players that called for: Diggs to be removed; Cole to take over as head coach; and the reinstatement of academic coordinator Elizabeth Stearns as the team's academic adviser.

Downs spent yesterday trying to resolve disagreements between Diggs and his players, many of whom said Saturday that even though they signed the petition, they wanted Diggs to stay on. The petition cited Diggs' treatment of his players.

"The focus was player-coach relationships," Downs said. "I talked to him [Diggs] about the players' concerns. We talked about style. What may be good for some [players] may not be good for others. The students responded by sharing their feelings. I would like all of us to communicate better. If there's going to be a recommendation, that's part of it."

Diggs continued to decline comment, as did all six of the players who met with Downs.

Meanwhile, one player who did not sign the petition spoke in support of Diggs. Tony Phillips, a 26-year-old Air Force veteran who had team-high totals of 736 yards rushing and nine touchdowns this fall, said Diggs should stay, despite his two-year record of 3-19.

"I believe in Coach Diggs, I believe in every coach on the team," Phillips said. "From my personal standpoint, he's a great man. From what I've heard of past teams here, we have discipline as a team compared to what was here before. He's turned the program around, and something positive is going to come out of it, hopefully next year.

"This whole thing has been blown out of proportion. It was a breakdown in communication."

In what Downs said was a separate issue that was being dealt with by the university's personnel department, no action was taken yesterday on Stearns' complaint of verbal harassment against Diggs.

The complaint was filed with the university Nov. 10, and Stearns said last night that if it wasn't resolved to her satisfaction today, she would take her complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

When asked what would cause her to go to the EEOC, Stearns said "If they [the Morgan State administration] don't reprimand Ricky more than verbally. If the institution does not formalize these charges to my satisfaction, I'll take other steps."

When asked if Diggs had any criticisms of the work she was doing, Stearns said, "He never made any comment about my work performance until I questioned him about a verbal statement he made. He then said he would do everything he could to get me fired."

The Bethune-Cookman forfeit was the first time Morgan State had done so since 1975, when members of the basketball team boycotted two games in protest of the suspension of coach Nat Frazier.

The forfeit denied six seniors their last game, and several players a chance at school records. Senior defensive back Eddie Hill finished his career with 15 interceptions, three short of the school record set by Joe Fowlkes in 1974-78. Wide receiver Jesse Humphrey had 55 catches in 10 games, seven receptions fewer than Mike Holston in 1980.

And quarterback Orlando Persell finished with 1,992 yards passing, just 14 yards behind the mark set by Daryl Jackson in 1989.

Even with the forfeit score of 2-0, Morgan's defense allowed 40.5 points a game, worst among the nation's Division I teams.

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