Players to be dismissed even if found not guilty

Updated: December 18, 2003, 5:43 PM ET
Associated Press

RENO, Nev. -- Reacting to the sixth arrest of a University of Nevada football player in the past year, newly appointed coach Chris Ault issued a new policy mandating permanent dismissal of any player accused of a felony even if they later are acquitted.

"Enough is enough," Ault said Wednesday in announcing the new "zero tolerance" policy.

"I cannot just sit here and say that everything is OK. We are not going to tolerate it anymore. These players need to know that it is not a right to wear the silver and blue, but rather it is a privilege and they have a standard to uphold."

Under the new policy, any football player who is charged with a felony would be dismissed immediately from the team. That replaces athletic department policy that calls for only the suspension of a student-athlete charged with a felony, pending the resolution of the charge. That policy continues for the remaining 18 sports programs at the school, he said.

The new policy is for felony charges only. Ault said it will be reviewed for renewal at the end of the 2004 season.

A player facing a misdemeanor charge will have his disciplinary action decided by the coach, which is part of the existing policy. Ault said the dismissal from the team will be permanent, even if the charges are reduced to misdemeanors, dropped or if a player is acquitted of the charges.

Appeals of dismissals would be heard by the athletic director, a position that Ault is filling on an interim basis until the school finds a replacement.

"If it is a felony, they are done," Ault told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "We have got to set a standard here. The university does have a students' rights policy that will allow the decision to be appealed."

Ault has been coach since Dec. 3, when President John Lilley appointed him to replace Chris Tormey, whom Ault fired Nov. 30 after four straight non-winning seasons. Ault was the head coach 1976-92 and 1994-95.

At least one player, junior cornerback Marlon McLaughlin, said he supports the policy, as long as it has an appeals process.

"Something could come up where it is not your fault or you are innocent," McLaughlin said. "If that is the case, then you should get your chance to be heard and reinstated to the team."

Players contacted about the policy change said they don't believe the problems that have occurred recently are any different than at any other school in the country.

"On every team there are individuals that are going to do stupid things," senior defensive tackle Derek Kennard Jr. said.

McLaughlin said student-athletes should be held to a higher standard because they are representatives of the school.

"It is a tough rule, but if that will keep us in line, then I am fine with it," McLaughlin said. "I think it comes with the territory.

Murphy became the sixth football player this year to face felony allegations:

-- Walk-on wide receiver Gary Snyder was dismissed from the team by Tormey shortly after being arrested in January on sexual assault charges.

-- Sophomore defensive end Craig Bailey was arrested in February on felony battery charges following an incident with his girlfriend in a Nye Hall dorm room. He later plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge and rejoined the team after a one-game suspension.

-- Three players, running backs Joe Bwire and B.J. Mitchell and cornerback Chris Handy,were indicted last month on felony battery charges stemming from a June fight near campus. Lawyers for the three said last week they plan to fight the charges. Bwire was dismissed from the team shortly after the incident. Handy and Mitchell have been suspended pending the outcome of the charges.

Ault, Nevada athletic director since 1986, said the previous athletic department policy was a "fair and simple" one, but that "extreme times call for extreme measures" for the football program.

"These things happen everywhere, but I have never seen anything

happen like this repeatedly," he said. "Am I embarrassed? Yeah, I am embarrassed. And the coaches and other players in the program are embarrassed."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press