- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 5, 2005

Three Maryland football players involved in a fight at a College Park bar Tuesday morning will be suspended for one game for violating team rules, coach Ralph Friedgen said yesterday.

The three players, who Maryland officials declined to name, could sit out any of the Terrapins’ final three games. Friedgen declined to say when the suspensions would be served, though they could be staggered over the remaining games.

In addition, at least one other player will be suspended for underage drinking in a separate incident and at least a dozen players total will be reprimanded for various team rules violations.

“It was probably one of the more difficult things I’ve done since I’ve been here,” said Friedgen, who conducted his own investigation and interviewed several players and witnesses. “I took some time and some deliberation in making my decision. Some of them weren’t very popular with our players, but I did what I felt like had to be done. The message has to be sent that this type of action will not be tolerated.”

The fight occurred shortly after 1 a.m. Tuesday at the Cornerstone Grill and Loft in College Park. Friedgen said nine players were at the establishment, and three were involved in a physical altercation. Friedgen said the players, two of whom indicated to him they would press charges of their own, claimed they were acting in self-defense.

The Prince George’s County Police Department is investigating an assault accusation from a woman who claimed she was groped that night at Cornerstone. A bouncer and two players were sent to the hospital after the melee, though a police spokeswoman said yesterday no charges have been filed in the case.

Friedgen declined to discuss the specifics of the incident. He said police did not want him to talk about it because it “would be prejudicious to the case.” However, Friedgen said some players “have to learn the hard way” why he issues his training rules and 11:30 p.m. curfew.

“I tell my players they’re special people, whether they like it or not,” Friedgen said. “There’s a lot of things they get that the normal student doesn’t have. … [But] they have to be responsible for their actions. They’re not just responsible to themselves. They represent the University of Maryland, they represent our football team and they also represent themselves and their families. They need to act accordingly.”

The suspensions could be costly for the Terps (4-4, 2-3 ACC), who must win twice more to become postseason eligible.

“This is not happening at the beginning of the year where there’s some easy nonconference game that we can win,” athletic director Debbie Yow said. “North Carolina looms before us as well as Boston College and N.C. State with the need for two additional wins to be bowl eligible. That makes me very proud that he’s willing to make the very tough decision for all the right reasons and unfortunately, further disadvantage us in those opportunities.”

Maryland officials declined to name the disciplined players, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

“What other schools do, I don’t know what their legal office says,” executive senior associate athletics director Kathy Worthington said. “This is how our legal office interprets what records are protected under that act.”

Three other players admitted to underage drinking, though their violations did not occur at Cornerstone. Friedgen said one player will be suspended, though at one point he said the length “could be more than one [game]. Not less than one” and at another said he would follow athletic department precedent. Yow said precedent has usually been 5 percent of the season, or roughly a half of a football game.

Yow said the other two players who admitted to underage drinking are redshirting this season.

All three will receive probation and 10 hours of community service, and could lose their scholarship with a repeat offense. They will be required to participate in a ride-along with campus police and will lose four complimentary tickets to two upcoming games.

An undisclosed number of players were issued a reprimand and 10 hours of community service for breaking curfew. Players who were legally consuming alcohol also will forfeit tickets to two games for violating training rules.

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