- Associated Press - Friday, August 19, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska receivers coach Keith Williams will be suspended two weeks without pay and won’t be allowed to coach or attend the first four games of the season after his latest arrest on suspicion of drunken driving last weekend.

Athletic director Shawn Eichorst said Friday that Williams could have been fired under terms of his contract.

“He’s a young man who is worthy of an opportunity of redemption here,” Eichorst said. “So we’ll see how it goes. I have a lot of faith he’ll do the right thing moving forward.”

Coach Mike Riley announced the discipline before practice and said afterward that he, Eichorst and other athletic department leaders decided the punishment as a group. Riley said he recommended a suspension. He also said if it had been a player arrested for a third DUI, that player would be allowed to remain on the team but would be suspended for multiple games.

“From my standpoint, as far as a penalty for a coach that stays on, it’s as significant a penalty as I’ve seen for an assistant coach,” Riley said.

The 45-year-old Williams was charged Monday with third-offense driving under the influence after a crash in which he rear-ended an Uber driver’s vehicle in downtown Lincoln. Williams’ blood-alcohol level was reported at 0.15 early Sunday, nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08. That high a reading could have led to a felony charge for aggravated DUI. He instead was charged with misdemeanor DUI and cited for careless driving after the non-injury crash.

He pleaded not guilty, a common procedural move in DUI cases.

Williams appeared after practice to read a statement. He took no questions.

“I am disappointed in myself and I am angry at my own poor decision,” he said. “I am embarrassed and I am ashamed but most of all I am sorry - sorry my actions have brought harm to my family, this university who I’ve fallen in love with, to the young men on our football team who I may have let down.”

Williams also apologized to Riley, Eichorst, Chancellor Ronnie Green, university President Hank Bounds and fans.

“In the coming days, weeks and months I will work hard to earn back the trust I have understandably lost from many in our community,” Williams said. “I will work hard to strengthen my life and I will do all I can to educate the young and old on the dangers of making poor decisions. I make no excuses. I accept the consequences.”

Riley said Williams would undergo outpatient alcohol therapy.

Eichorst said Williams “has a very, very small margin of error moving forward.” Asked the range of offenses that would lead to Williams’ firing, Eichorst said, “It’s hard to get into those hypotheticals, but I think you could honestly come up with some thoughts that if he did anything further in that regard, ‘Would he be here?’ No.”

Williams has two prior DUI convictions, both in California in 2004 and 2009. Riley said the university was aware of Williams’ previous convictions before he was hired in 2015. Williams after last season received a raise from $275,000 to $400,000 per year and had his contract extended to Jan. 31, 2018.

Williams is considered one of the Huskers’ top recruiters, and his arrest came on the weekend five-star receiver recruit Joseph Lewis of Los Angeles visited the campus.

Riley said he’s allowing Williams to stay on staff for more than his recruiting and coaching prowess.

“Keith is the same guy I hired a year ago. He might be a better guy. He made a terrible mistake,” Riley said. “We have decided to support him and give him an opportunity to work with our kids. He has a tremendous influence on our team and on his players. He’s one of the best I’ve been around. He talks real-life stuff to these kids. These kids listen to him, they change under him, he has impacted them.”

Williams is due back in court on Oct. 24, and it’s possible he would receive jail time. Riley said he’s planning for any contingency and that a graduate assistant could go on the road to recruit in Williams’ place. Graduate assistant Hardie Buck is coaching the receivers in individual drills in the absence of Williams.

Eichorst is prepared for pushback from those who disagree with the decision to not fire Williams.

“We know this was a very serious matter,” he said, “and we all understood through the process that we weren’t going to make everybody happy, especially those who have been uniquely affected by that sort of behavior. So we respect that and appreciate that.”


Online: AP College Football: https://collegefootball.ap.org

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