Montana State vows to re-examine policies

Updated: June 30, 2006, 8:33 PM ET
Associated Press

BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Montana State University will take a "serious look at itself," including its recruiting process, after two former athletes were charged with murdering another man, university President Geoff Gamble said Friday.

The second of those two former athletes, onetime redshirt football player John LeBrum, made an initial appearance in Justice Court Friday. Bail was set at $1 million for LeBrum, as it had been a day earlier for Branden Miller, a former basketball player. Both LeBrum and Miller are charged with murder in the death last week of Jason Cody Wright, a suspected cocaine dealer whose body was found June 23 at a university agronomy farm.

Gamble, who called the case "probably the most significant in my experience as an administrator," said he assembled the campus' senior leadership team Thursday and decided it was time to take a closer look at what the university is doing, including in recruiting.

Neither LeBrum nor Miller completed their degrees, he said. Both also were dropped from their teams, Miller, in December, for not keeping his grades high enough and LeBrum, nearly two summers ago, for violating team rules, according to MSU's sports information director.

"As an educator, that's very troubling for me," said Gamble, adding that officials have "an obligation" to help all the students brought on campus succeed.

Other issues raised by the case include security on campus and whether there are any "systemic issues" that may have led to problems, Gamble said. Of particular concern to Gamble is what he called the "drug culture."

Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert -- whose father, Dobbie, coached basketball at MSU from 1955-62 -- said he doesn't believe the case speaks to problems in the university's athletics system or that it should reflect poorly on the school.

"These are grown, adult men, who made their own decisions," he said.

Gamble, however, believes the case does reflect back to the campus. LeBrum and Miller "will be characterized as former student athletes," Gamble said. "That's an issue."

Court records state a former assistant basketball coach at Montana State told investigators Miller had been in possession of bags with handguns and Wright's ID card. James Clark also pointed out to investigators the locker in which the bag was stashed, marked "1 Wilson," the records show.

Gamble said guns are not allowed on campus -- though officials do not screen for them. He added that school officials are waiting to hear more from investigators, whose work is ongoing.

Any relationships between LeBrum, Miller and Wright were not clear from court papers, to which Lambert repeatedly referred questions about the case. He did say additional charges were possible and that he hoped to know more from investigators in a week.

Back at Montana State, Gamble said student, athletic and faculty leadership will be part of the review, as will an outside third party. Once the team is in place, its work could take two to three months, he added.

The slaying is the third high-profile case to rock the Big Sky Conference school's athletic department in the last three years.

In September 2005, former Montana State basketball player Frank Brown was sentenced to 90 days in jail for rape. He also was given a six-year deferred sentence and ordered to undergo treatment and register as a sexual offender.

Brown pleaded guilty to twice raping a 15-year-old girl, at least once when she was passed out after drinking with him.

In October 2004, former assistant head football coach Joe O'Brien was sentenced to four years in prison for his role in a methamphetamine distribution conspiracy.

O'Brien pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, distribution of meth near a school and 24 counts of money laundering. He also was sentenced to eight years of supervised release and 500 hours of community service.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press