Colorado St. players involved in ‘savage beating’ of students suspended

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A disturbing incident which took place over the weekend has resulted in three players being at least temporarily removed from the Colorado State football program.

The players — junior defensive end Nordly Capi (pictured), junior linebacker Mike Orakpo and junior defensive end Colton Paulhus — were allegedly involved in the “savage beating“, as the Fort Collins Coloradoan described it, of four freshman CSU students at a party late Friday night.  The alleged victims were left with various injuries, from chipped teeth to eyes nearly swollen shut to cuts and bruises to one having a boot print left on his back from where he was allegedly assaulted by one of the football players.

Two of the alleged victims, 19-year-old John ‘JD’ Haley and 20-year-old Donny Gocha, spoke to the Coloradoan and relayed their version of how the events that night transpired.

They say they were leaving a party at LaPorte and Shields about midnight on Friday when an SUV loaded with fellow students drove past, its occupants yelling homophobic insults. When Gocha responded with the same insult, the SUV screeched to a halt and several men piled out, Haley said.

“You could just tell they were looking for a fight,” Haley said. “They just started beating the back of Donny’s head in.”

Haley said he and their other two friends tried to protect Gocha while the much larger men kicked and punched him.

“I covered Donny’s head with my body,” Haley said. “We were all scared for his life. It froze me. You can’t really put into words how disturbing it was. My only thought was to protect his head.”

Haley added that “[i]t wasn’t really much of a fight. It was basically just a beating.  I’ve never seen anyone so mad, so violent. The kid was on a rampage.” Haley did not reveal which football-playing “kid” to which he was referring.

In a Facebook posting that was subsequently deleted, offensive lineman Trey Cassidy acknowledged that unnamed teammates were involved in the alleged beating, in essence apologizing for their actions and lamenting the fact that the entire program will be portrayed in a harsh light because of the actions of a few.

“Well first off, I want to apologize for what my teammates have done to three students last night. I just talked to the students who were assaulted. I hang out in their hall regularly and do not believe that there is any hostility between us,” Cassidy wrote Saturday on a Facebook group where Haley had posted photos of his injuries. “I figured everyone else should know that not everyone on the team are like these athletes that get into fights every other weekend. But it is this select few … that get the rest of us labeled as a group, you would assume that everyone on campus would realize this. But let’s face reality people, some people are going to label the entire team as hot headed people that can’t be trusted.”

“A group of football players jumped a few students, I am not allowed to really get into it but I can say they are currently suspended.”

Capi, who led the Mountain West Conference in sacks last season, and Orakpo, the younger brother of former Texas standout Brian Orakpo and the Rams’ third-leading tackler in 2011, were also involved in a physical altercation around St. Patrick’s Day this year.  No charges were ever filed in that incident, nor have any been filed (yet) as a result of this latest situation.

First-year head coach Jim McElwain announced Saturday that three players had been indefinitely suspended by the program.  While again not releasing the specific names of the players, and perhaps in response to the calls for all three players to be permanently dismissed from the program, McElwain released a statement Monday afternoon.  Here it is, in its entirety:

“At this point, the three players reported to be involved in the incident over the weekend are indefinitely suspended from the football program. That means they are effectively no longer part of this team and will not take part in any football-related activity. We do not condone in any way, shape or form this type of behavior. It is completely unacceptable.

“I understand people want me to remove them from the team immediately. But until the investigation concludes and due process takes its course, suspending them indefinitely is the strongest action I can take.

“The vast majority of players in this program are good kids. They work hard and they do the right thing. They understand that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”

Once the police investigation is completed, that report will be the basis for an internal investigation, which will determine what if any permanent sanctions will be levied on any or all of the players allegedly involved.

BYU wearing special patch in honor of LaVell Edwards

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BYU got the summer media day fun started on Friday with their football media day. BYU tends to pull out all the stops on its media day with coach and player interviews, alumni returning, and a handful of announcements about the future of the program. In addition to news about their relationship with ESPN, BYU also announced the football team will be sporting a patch this season in honor of the late LaVell Edwards.

In addition to players wearing the patch on their jerseys, BYU coaches will also wear the patch on their sleeves.

Edwards passed away in December at the age of 86. The BYU coaching legend spent 29 seasons on the sidelines in Provo and accumulated 257 wins along the way. Among those was a national championship season in 1984, which remains the most recent national championship to be claimed by a program not currently in a power conference. Edwards took 22 BYU teams to a bowl game.

Now if we can just keep getting BYU to stick to that lighter shade of blue as their main home uniform, we’ll be in great shape.

Former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Banks found guilty of rape

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Former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Banks was convicted by a jury on Friday for rape of a female Vanderbilt student. Following 15 hours of jury deliberations, the verdict of guilty on one count of aggravated rape and one count of aggravated sexual battery was in.

”He’s shocked but understands that this is only the first part of this process, there’s a lot more to do from here on,” Banks’ lawyer, Mark Scruggs, said after the verdict. ”We have some really good issues to raise.”

Part of Banks’ defense was built on succumbing to peer pressure, suggesting he feared he may be beaten up by teammates if he did not participate in the scandalous activity. The jury, having reviewed videos and photos from the incident, some of which were shot by Banks, determined that was not a viable defense.

”Making fun of another person is not right, but we know it happens,” Assistant District Attorney Roger Moore said in closing arguments, according to the Associated Press. ”But it doesn’t give you a legal defense to commit a crime, particularly not an aggravated rape, an aggravated sexual battery. I mean if that’s the case, then we’d have the ‘football team defense.”’

Banks will serve a minimum of 15 years in prison. One count of aggravated rape has a minimum sentence of 15 years.

Other former Vanderbilt players had previously been convicted for their roles in the 2013 rape. Cory Batey was found guilty of aggravated rape and sentenced to 15-25 years in prison in April 2016. Brandon Vandenbeurg was found guilty and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

California’s state-funded travel ban to discriminating states raises mild football scheduling concerns

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The state of California is banning state-funded travel to the states of Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, and South Dakota. Those states are added to the previous state-funded travel bans that included Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee due to what California lawmakers say are laws that allow for discrimination against gay and transgender people.

So what does this have to do with college football? My colleague, Bryan, notes this latest decision from the state means scheduling any potential road games for a handful of schools just got a tad trickier.

This development poses a couple of issues for some California schools to address moving forward.

San Jose State is the school affected by this latest news right off the bat. San Jose State has a road game scheduled at Texas on September 9 this season. San Jose State may have to rely on some of that guaranteed money from Texas to cover the expenses, which would put a dent in the total takeaway from playing the game in the first place.

Cal is also scheduled to play at North Carolina on September 2. Cal also plays at TCU in 2021 and at Auburn in 2024. If the ban is still in operation at those times, then Cal will have to budget ahead of time to tackle the expenses. UCLA will play at Memphis on September 19.

The state-funded travel ban to these states may not be an issue for the postseason, as bowl game expenses tend to be carried by the conference and their revenue shares.

Fresno State has a road game at Texas A&M scheduled in 2020. San Diego State has no future scheduling hassles to worry about for the time being.

When ‘physically, mentally ready,’ door wide open for Keyshawn Johnson Jr.’s return to Nebraska

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Keyshawn Johnson Jr. has yet to play a down for Nebraska, but, if it’s up to Mike Riley, he will at some point down the road.

Earlier this month, the son of former USC great Keyshawn Johnson was cited for marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.  This past week, the younger Johnson decided to take a leave of absence, with his father stating that his son needed some time to “mature” and will not play for the Cornhuskers in 2017.

Left open at the time was the question of whether Johnson Jr. would ever play for the ‘Huskers, period.  Friday, Riley left the door wide open for a return.

“We’re disappointed that he’s not here with us right now today,” the head coach said according to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “I think there’s kind of a wellness factor for Keyshawn going home. We talked to him about the possibility of maybe enrolling part time and taking care of his progress toward his degree, and also getting in great shape.

“And we opened the door for return, which is just kind of left open that we’ll deal with at the time that he is physically and mentally ready to do that.”

A three-star 2017 signee who was an early enrollee and participated in spring practice, the younger Johnson had been expected to be an immediate contributor for the Cornhuskers this season.