E. Roosevelt Coach Is Suspended

By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 16, 2007

Eleanor Roosevelt football coach Rick Houchens, who turned the Raiders into one of the region's top teams, has been suspended for the rest of the season along with one of his assistants after a Prince George's County infractions committee ruled a player had improperly enrolled at the Greenbelt school last year.

"They should have known [this player was] not in their zone," Prince George's supervisor of athletics Earl Hawkins said, noting the investigation is continuing and includes an examination of players on this season's team.

The Raiders also have been ruled ineligible for the postseason.

The investigation began after former Roosevelt player Edwin Rios and his mother, Vonda Epps, notified the school system of the alleged infractions involving Rios's younger brother, Nigel, who played for Roosevelt last season. Epps said her younger son enrolled at Roosevelt by using the Greenbelt address of Roosevelt assistant coach Roman Morris.

Prince George's County generally requires students to attend public schools within their neighborhood boundaries. Coaches are not allowed to recruit players to come to their schools.

Morris, who also was suspended for the season, denied the allegations. His son, Stephon, a junior cornerback for the Raiders, sat out a season-opening win last week because of eligibility concerns.

Stephon Morris was back yesterday for the Raiders' 32-0 victory over visiting Oxon Hill. Another player, junior wide receiver Devon Smith, was held out for a second consecutive game as his eligibility is examined, Houchens said. Defensive coordinator Dan McMunn is serving as interim coach.

Nigel Rios transferred to C.H. Flowers before this school year but is academically ineligible to play, Epps said. Edwin Rios, a 2001 Roosevelt graduate, said he also improperly attended the school, getting assistance enrolling from Reginald McNeill, an assistant principal at the time who recently became Roosevelt's principal.

"Coach Rick introduced me to Mr. McNeill, and he let me know I could use [a magnet program] as an avenue to get in the building," Rios said after yesterday's game, in which he was back at his alma mater as an Oxon Hill assistant. "Mr. McNeill was aware I was out of the zone."

McNeill declined to comment yesterday.

Houchens, who watched the first half of yesterday's game from his car in a front-row parking space in the parking lot, denied Rios's statements. Houchens said he was unaware of players improperly attending the school and that he had never assisted students in enrolling when they did not belong at Roosevelt.

Houchens and Morris said they and the school are appealing the decision and punishments to Prince George's Superintendent John E. Deasy.

"You have 100-some kids; you don't know where everyone lives," Houchens said. "You have no idea."

Edwin Rios said Houchens was "completely aware" of the situation.

"Numerous times [Houchens] said, 'Make sure you know your address, you know they're going to be asking,' " Rios said. "He knew we lived in Birchwood [a neighborhood in Oxon Hill]. He provided transportation for me to come here. He knew my phone number, which is an Oxon Hill suffix. He's given me rides home before.

"At some point you get tired of seeing the wrong thing. I was wrong when I was doing it. It's not fair to the other schools in the county."

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