Friedgen suspends 4

others involved

Bar fight, other incident prompt UM crackdown

November 05, 2005|By HEATHER A. DINICH | HEATHER A. DINICH,SUN REPORTER

COLLEGE PARK -- Four Maryland football players have been suspended for one game, and numerous others are facing sanctions for violating team rules, including underage drinking, coach Ralph Friedgen said yesterday.

Three of the suspended players admitted their involvement in a physical altercation just after 1 a.m. Tuesday at the Cornerstone Grill and Loft in College Park. All three told Friedgen they were acting in self-defense, and two are planning on pressing charges. Still, they will receive letters of probation, meaning if another incident occurs, they could lose their scholarship and would be dismissed from the team.

In all, Friedgen said nine players were at the Cornerstone at the time of the bar fight. Prince George's County Police said the altercation began after a woman in the bar complained of being groped. Police are still investigating the incident, which sent an off-duty bouncer to a nearby hospital with a broken nose, and none of Maryland's players has been arrested or charged with any crimes.

Mark Srour, owner of the Cornerstone, said last night that no football players currently are being allowed in the establishment. He said he plans to monitor their IDs and provide a list of their names to the doorman. "It's in everyone's best interests not to let them in until all the facts are in," he said. "I respect the coach and everything about the University of Maryland. It's a shame it had to happen."

In a separate incident, Friedgen said one player was suspended one game for underage drinking. Two other athletes who admitted to underage drinking are being redshirted, and instead of missing a game will receive letters of probation, lose complimentary tickets to two coming games, perform 10 hours of community service and will be required to go on a ride-a-long with campus police.

"My whole purpose in making this decision - and it was a hard decision - but I have to send a message that this can't happen again," Friedgen said. "That's my only concern. To me it had to be strong enough so our players know this is not going to be tolerated. And they can't put themselves in this situation."

University officials would not release the names of the players involved. Legal counsel advised it would be against the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

"I have dealt with other suspensions where we have not released the names," said Kathy Worthington, executive senior associate athletic director. "This isn't the first time, definitely."

Athletic director Debbie Yow confirmed yesterday that junior quarterback Sam Hollenbach, junior tight end Vernon Davis and senior linebacker D'Qwell Jackson - all among the team's top playmakers - were not among the players suspended.

Friedgen also declined to say what games the players would miss. Maryland has three games remaining - North Carolina, Boston College and North Carolina State - and needs to win two to become bowl eligible.

Friedgen said there were also players who violated team rules by staying out past the 11:30 p.m. curfew and consuming alcohol, even if they are 21. Friedgen requires his athletes to abstain from drinking during the season. Those athletes will receive a letter of reprimand, which is a warning before probation, and will be required to perform 10 hours of community service. Any players who were drinking also will lose their complimentary tickets to two games. Players usually receive four tickets to each game.

"We will make the tough decision and he did make the tough decision," Yow said. "This is not happening at the beginning of the year where there's some easy nonconference game that we can win. North Carolina looms before us as well as Boston College and N.C. State with the need for two additional wins to be bowl-eligible.

"That makes me very proud that he's willing to make the very tough decision for all the right reasons and unfortunately and unintentionally further disadvantage us in those opportunities," Yow said. "That shouts integrity as far as I'm concerned."

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

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