Minnesota coach Brewster dismisses four from football team

Updated: July 18, 2007, 6:55 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota coach Tim Brewster acted decisively to address an increasingly ugly sexual assault scandal on Wednesday, kicking four accomplished players off the team for their alleged involvement in the rape of an 18-year-old woman.

Brewster dismissed standout cornerback Dominic Jones, who was charged Monday with third-degree criminal sexual conduct, and three teammates who have not yet been charged with a crime -- running back E.J. Jones, defensive end Alex Daniels and defensive back Keith Massey.

The new coach, who has spent the first six months on a whirlwind positivity campaign aimed at drumming up interest across the state in a moribund program, said all four violated team and university codes of conduct.

"It is an honor and a privilege to wear the uniform of the University of Minnesota and we have exceedingly high expectations for each of our student-athletes," Brewster said in a statement issued by the university. "We spend a considerable amount of time addressing our players regarding their personal conduct and we will not compromise our values. We are establishing a culture of integrity and we will demand that our players are held accountable for their actions."

Dominic Jones, a junior and one of the team's best defensive players, is accused of assaulting a woman who was "physically helpless" after a night of binge drinking at a campus apartment in early April.

Investigators estimated the woman's blood-alcohol content was more than 0.30 percent when they say Daniels used his cell phone to film Jones with the woman. Forensic scientists later recovered a portion of the deleted video from the phone and say they have DNA evidence linking Jones to the woman. Jones was released from jail on $25,000 bail on Tuesday.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Daniels, E.J. Jones and Massey had sex with the woman earlier in the night. Freeman has not filed charges against those three but said they remain suspects in the case.

Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi said he supported the dismissals.

"I am in full support of the decision of coach Brewster and I appreciate how he has handled this very difficult situation," Maturi said in the statement. "While this issue is deeply disappointing, the Athletics Department is sending a clear and unmistakable message that it will never compromise its code of conduct."

The school said the dismissals do not immediately affect the four players' scholarship status or standing as students at the university, but both are subject to review by the NCAA and the school.

Jeff DeGree, an attorney for E.J. Jones, said his client did not blame Brewster for the move.

"When the county attorney chose to characterize these guys as suspects, we were very disappointed," DeGree said. "That left Coach Brewster with little alternative. E.J. is very, very disappointed. He loves the University of Minnesota and he loves playing football there."

DeGree said that Jones did nothing criminal that night and is at best a witness to the events.

"They have had two to three months to review the case," DeGree said. "They decided not to charge them at the time and I don't know what at this point could change their minds."

Phone messages left with attorneys for the other players weren't immediately returned.

The players were going to be counted on heavily this season by a Gophers team already expected to struggle in Brewster's first season.

Despite being just 5-foot-8, Dominic Jones had started 20 straight games and emerged as a vocal leader on the defense. He also led the Big Ten last season with a 23.0-yard average on kick returns.

Daniels, who was teammates with Dominic Jones and Massey in high school in Columbus, Ohio, was a highly touted recruit by Glen Mason who was expected to be a key contributor on an improving defense.

E.J. Jones was the only true freshman on the Gophers' offense to start a game last season and was expected to team with Amir Pinnix and Jay Thomas in another loaded Minnesota backfield.

Massey, Dominic Jones' half brother, played in nine games as a redshirt freshman last season.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press