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'
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