The Ugly Truth About Denial

Senior safety Marcus Wimbush (12), who was charged last March with two counts of second-degree assault and a fourth-degree sex offense, has not missed a game since his arrest. His new trial date is Jan. 26.
Senior safety Marcus Wimbush (12), who was charged last March with two counts of second-degree assault and a fourth-degree sex offense, has not missed a game since his arrest. His new trial date is Jan. 26. (Toni L. Sandys/twp - Twp)

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By Mike Wise
Friday, September 8, 2006

The moral at Maryland: Deny, deny, deny. Deny drinking at an off-campus bar after curfew during the season. Deny throwing a punch during a melee at the bar. Deny everything, most of all groping a woman's behind. Because that could mean the difference between being suspended for a game -- dealing with public ridicule and shame -- and securing the absolute benefit of the doubt from a university's football coach and athletic department.

Don't admit, and the Terrapins must acquit. Or they will leave your fate to the glacial pace of the Prince George's County District Court system. By the time your case is heard, your eligibility might be up. It won't cost you a game. You and your family won't have to worry about anything but attorney fees.

It's a good deal. Just ask Marcus Wimbush, a senior safety from the District. Wimbush was charged last March with two counts of second-degree assault and a fourth-degree sex offense after an ugly night at the Cornerstone Grill and Loft in College Park last Halloween.

That was the same night at least nine Maryland players were at the same bar, the same night at least a few of the Terps threw haymakers after midnight. This was a nasty brawl, in which one bouncer suffered a broken nose in two places, and former Maryland wideout Derrick Fenner received multiple stitches in his head. Another wide receiver still on the team, senior Drew Weatherly, missed that week's game because of a concussion.

Wimbush was not arrested that night and still denies any wrongdoing. Yet three players who admitted they were at the bar -- and admitted they threw punches, after Ralph Friedgen went "Law and Order" on them -- were suspended for a game by their coach, even though they claimed self-defense. Beyond Fenner and Weatherly, there was senior William Kershaw, who lost his last opportunity to play in his home state of North Carolina before family and friends.

Wimbush, meantime, did not miss a game for Maryland last season and in all likelihood will not miss one this season. His attorney sought and was granted a continuance for Wimbush in July. His new trial date is Jan. 26 -- conveniently after Maryland has wrapped up its season and Wimbush his eligibility.

Nearly a year has passed since that incident, and only one Maryland player was criminally charged. And that kid, who won't talk about the incident, is going about his business like nothing happened.

Some latitude for justice in College Park, no?

"This was not a double-standard deal," Maryland Athletic Director Debbie Yow said. "If we had a female athlete charged with shoplifting and she says it was a huge misunderstanding -- 'My girlfriend was on the other side of the door, and I was telling her to feed the meter' -- we don't sanction her. We let it play out in the courts. Now if her friend with her says, 'That didn't happen; that's bogus,' well, we're going to deal with it."

"I don't want to be judge and jury in a situation where I don't know who's innocent and guilty. It just smacks of unfairness."

Wimbush was not an indispensable player last season, so there's nothing to suggest Yow or Friedgen treated him with ulterior motives in mind. And if Wimbush were suspended, his family would have been in Yow's office the next day asking why she decided the young man was guilty before the courts have had their say. (Curiously, however, Friedgen said yesterday Wimbush has a knee injury and his status for tomorrow's game against cupcake Middle Tennessee is uncertain.)

Maryland's student-athlete handbook demands suspension on felony charges but leaves wiggle room when it comes to misdemeanors, of which Wimbush was charged with three. Yow ultimately determines whether the athlete can play or practice in such cases.


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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