Players suspended for taking recruit to strip club
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Three University of New Mexico football players were suspended Friday for taking a prospective player to a strip club where alcohol was sold, a situation that turned worse when they got into an argument and were shot at.
Head coach Rocky Long announced at a news conference that the players -- reserve linebacker Justin Clayton, reserve tight end Clayton Cardenas and starting defensive end Michael Tuohy -- violated team policy and will not play in the inaugural New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 23 against San Jose State.
Long said the football program is "thankful and blessed" that none of the players was seriously hurt in the Dec. 9 incident.
"In my book they were victims," said Long, adding that the players made a mistake in violating school regulations regarding what they can and cannot do while hosting potential athletes.
"They're not supposed to be in those kind of places ... and they're not supposed to take recruits in places where there is alcohol and drinking," Long said. "As some young people do, they don't always follow advice and think they know what's best. In this case, it almost cost them dearly."
Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz said the four players were involved in an argument with two Hispanic men inside the strip club. The argument continued outside and one of the Hispanic men pulled out a handgun and began firing at the student athletes' vehicle.
Schultz said the men then pursued the players as they tried to drive away and continued firing at their vehicle.
Cardenas got glass in his eye and the recruit, whose name was not immediately released, was shot multiple times in the leg. The recruit, who currently attends Palomar College in San Marcos, Calif., is recovering at home in California.
"This was a very violent crime and had the potential to be a multiple homicide," Schultz said.
Long said he hasn't had time to think about the impact the suspensions might have on the bowl game.
"Football is pretty important to me and it's pretty important to a lot of people in our program, but it's a lot less important than a lot of other things in this world and one of them is that these boys are safe," he said.
Police have made no arrests, but they have video from the club that will hopefully aid in their investigation.
UNM athletics director Paul Krebs said rules say that players are not to be drinking alcohol or going to a strip club during a host visit. Krebs said he will review department policies to ensure the situation is handled appropriately.
Tuohy has been suspended before for violating team policy. UNM spokesman Greg Remington said Tuohy did not play in New Mexico's Oct. 7 game against Wyoming, but he would not say what led to that suspension.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press