Players tended to Howard after stabbing

Updated: October 19, 2009, 4:54 PM ET
By Brian Bennett | ESPN.com

There are at least two Connecticut players who have been so strongly affected by the stabbing death of cornerback Jasper Howard that they may not play Saturday at West Virginia, coach Randy Edsall said.

Edsall declined to identify them Monday, calling it a private matter, but said one player had held Howard in his arms after the stabbing while another tried to address the wound and became covered with blood.

"I've talked to both of them each day," Edsall said. "If they don't feel like they're mentally ready to play, that's their decision, and I will honor whatever decision they want to make."

Howard
Howard

Edsall said there was no real thought about postponing this week's game in Morgantown.

"I know Jasper wouldn't want us to do that," he said. "That's the real reason. He was a competitor, a guy who loved the game, the spirit of the game and the competition of the game. His want and his will would be for us to go out and play."

An autopsy showed Howard, 20, was killed by a single stab wound to his abdomen, and the state medical examiner's office ruled the Miami native's death a homicide.

The medical examiner's office released its findings Monday.

Howard and Brian Parker, a 19-year-old sophomore wide receiver from Sarasota, Fla., were stabbed outside the UConn Student Union early Sunday morning, after a pulled fire alarm forced an evacuation during a university-sponsored dance.

Parker was released from a local hospital.

Parker, who is academically ineligible this season, is identified in a police report stemming from the arrest of Johnny Hood, a Hartford man taken into custody after the fight on charges of breach of peace and interfering with police.

The incident report says Parker identified Hood as one of those involved in the attack. Hood was arraigned Monday and ordered held on $100,000 bond.

Hood has not been charged with Howard's death. UConn police Maj. Ronald Blicher says authorities are not anticipating any "significant changes in the investigation" Monday.

Blicher says the stabbings stemmed from a dispute between two groups of people, including some who were not students.

Police interviewed dozens of witnesses Monday; around 300 people were in the area when a fire alarm sounded and students evacuated the building.

"We're pursuing active investigative leads," Blicher said. "The investigation will continue into this week."

Edsall said it will be good for his team to return to the practice field Tuesday and "get back to a little bit of normalcy."

There has been nothing normal about the past 48 hours for the Huskies.

Howard's death has shaken the UConn community and put Edsall in situations he never thought he'd have to deal with.

Edsall said he will pick up Howard's family at the airport Monday afternoon and drive them to see the surgeon who tried to save Jasper's life and the medical examiner who has custody of the body.

Edsall tried to find other coaches who had been through a similar situation, losing a star player to tragedy in the middle of the season, but he couldn't find any other examples. He said he talked to someone who lost a teammate in the offseason.

"You've got to be yourself in this situation," Edsall said. "As the focal point and the leader, you have to be strong and stand strong, be the pillar of strength for our coaches, my players and even the players' families, and that's what I'm trying to do."

The Huskies will honor Howard by wearing "JH" stickers on the backs of their helmets. They will also take either Howard's jersey or his helmet with him to all their remaining games this season.

West Virginia plans to honor Howard in some way as well on Saturday, coach Bill Stewart said. He will announce specifics Tuesday. Stewart addressed the tragedy with his team at a meeting Sunday afternoon.

"I opened up with the story," Stewart said. "Our youngsters from the Miami area that knew him took it very, very hard. Our guys were quite shaken, as they should be. They really, really liked that young man."

Edsall said he had heard from every head coach in the Big East in the past 24 hours and that he was grateful for the outpouring of support.

"It's times like these when a close conference like the Big East needs to come together," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said.

A student memorial service was being planned. The campus co-op store sold out of Howard's No. 6 jersey Monday morning.

Brian Bennett covers Big East football for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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