Pelphrey suspends five players

Updated: November 10, 2009, 6:53 PM ET
By Dana O'Neil | ESPN.com

Arkansas will be down to nine players when it opens its season on Friday night against Alcorn State after coach John Pelphrey meted out suspensions stemming from various disciplinary problems since the end of the 2008-09 season.

Top returning scorer Courtney Fortson and starter Stefan Welsh both have been suspended indefinitely while key reserve Marcus Britt will miss the first six regular-season games. Freshman Glenn Bryant will miss the Razorbacks' first two games while walk-on Nick Mason will not be allowed to play during the fall semester.

According to police reports, Britt, Bryant and Mason were all present at a fraternity party in August where a woman alleged three unnamed basketball players raped her. The prosecutor's office decided not to press charges. Pelphrey, however, said at the time that although his players were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing they would be punished for code of conduct violations.

After the alleged rape, Fortson made a crude comment on his Twitter page. At the time, Pelphrey indicated Fortson as well as the others involved might receive a two- or three-game suspension. Losing Fortson for the long haul will have a serious impact on the rebuilding Hogs.

Welsh also was suspended for the Razorbacks' exhibition game last week, but Pelphrey declined to say why.

Arkansas sports information director Phillip Pierce said "there were several incidents between the end of last season and now" that merited the suspensions and that they were not all related to the incident at the fraternity party.

All of the suspensions will be served concurrently.

"In the course of this process, we analyzed each student-athlete's situation independently and made determinations based on each set of circumstances," Pelphrey said. "We will continue to address disciplinary matters in a straightforward manner and take action when players do not meet the expectations of conduct required of our student-athletes. Our program remains committed to representing the University of Arkansas, individually and collectively, in an appropriate manner."

As a freshman last season, Fortson averaged 14.8 points per game for the Razorbacks, dishing out 172 assists.

Welsh, a senior, started 24 games, averaging 11.5 points and 2.9 rebounds. Britt appeared in all 30 games.

Arkansas already is without Michael Sanchez, who is battling plantar fasciitis, leaving a roster of nine players that includes former football team member Brandon Mitchell and golfer Stephen Cox.

Dana O'Neil covers college basketball for ESPN.com.

Dana O'Neil | email

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