Niagara players suspended following assault charges
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Niagara issued suspensions ranging from one to eight games for six men's basketball players accused of being involved in an assault of a university baseball player this summer.
Athletic director Ed McLaughlin announced the suspensions in a news release issued by the university Wednesday, saying the players are being "held accountable for their poor judgment."
The timing of the disciplinary action came as a surprise after McLaughlin had previously said he would wait until after the players' legal proceedings were completed. Five of the six players are scheduled to appear in a Niagara Falls court on Monday.
McLaughlin said he couldn't wait any longer, because the team is scheduled to open practice Friday, and its season opener is only a month away.
Starters Charron Fisher, who will serve an eight-game suspension, and Stanley Hodge (two games) face the most serious charge of misdemeanor assault. They are accused of attacking Jeffrey St. Denis, a Purple Eagles pitcher, who was pulled out of a parked van near a Niagara Falls bar in the early morning of Aug. 31.
St. Denis lost consciousness and was driven to a hospital, where he was treated for bruises to the face and chest, a police report said.
Hodge and teammates Lorenzo Miles, Kamau Gordon and Javonte Clanton are charged with disorderly conduct.
Gordon and Benson Egemonye, who has not been charged, face two-game suspensions, while Miles and Clanton will serve one-game suspensions.
Except for Fisher, whose suspension will begin at the start of the season, the remainder of the suspensions will be staggered so the team will have enough players for substitutions.
McLaughlin said he based his decision on a school investigation, and noted the players still will appear before a university judicial review panel, where they potentially face further disciplinary action.
Athletic department spokeswoman Michele Schmidt said the school was not granting interviews because of the pending court action.
"It is a privilege to be a Niagara University basketball player," coach Joe Mihalich said in the university statement. "Some of our players have abused that privilege and they will pay the price."
Miles, a senior guard, said he and his teammates accepted the punishment.
"On behalf of my teammates, I apologize for embarrassing Niagara University," Miles said. "We will accept the penalties like men and learn from them."
McLaughlin, who took over as AD in August, is developing a code of conduct to be signed by all university athletes. He said athletes also will be required to take part in diversity training and alcohol awareness programs.
"We will do away with separate teams having their own team rules," McLaughlin said. "This whole experience has taught us something about ourselves and how we can grow as an athletic department."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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