A Marshall University assistant football coach has been suspended from his job for a week after knocking down a freshman player and dislocating the player's shoulder during practice Wednesday.
Ed Starling, the assistant athletic director, confirmed yesterday that the defensive coordinator, Bruce Johnson, was suspended by Lynn Snyder, the athletic director, "in connection with" the incident.
Johnson did not return calls yesterday. Snyder, who was in Boone, N.C., for the team's last game of the season against Appalachian State, refused to comment on the incident or the suspension.
"It's a personnel matter," Snyder said.
Starling said he did not know the length of the suspension, but the mother of the player involved, free safety John Thomas of Reston, Va., said yesterday that university officials told her it was "for a week and that's all."
It marked the second time this season that the football program at the Huntington, W.VA., university has been embroiled in controversy over alleged verbal and physical abuse.
Several weeks ago, the football players met with the team chaplian to discuss Coach Sonny Randle's treatment of them. Some of the players told The Washington Post that, in addition to verbal abuse, they were upset by Randle's occasional grabbing of face masks to get their attention. Randle denied any wrongdoing.
Thomas, 20, a walk-on who has been ineligible for game action this year because of NCAA transfer rules, said his right shoulder was still feeling "pretty uncomfortable" yesterday.
A graduate of Herndon High who spent a postgraduate year at Massanutten Military Academy playing for Randle and a year at George Mason University before transferring to Marshall, Thomas referred all questions about the incident to his parents, Homer and Mary Thomas.
"To think he could go all year and sustain only one injury and that came from his coach . . . his mother said yesterday.
According to her son, Mrs. Thomas said yesterday, "He didn't know he was going to be hit. He didn't expect it. He said he might have made an error on the play."
Mrs. Thomas said her son told her that Johnson "hit him very hard. The first time (Johnson) knocked him down. Then (Johnson) started to leave and, as John started getting up (Johnson) came at him again." She added that her son told her Johnson had called him names, "four-letter types."
"I guess it was because John hadn't run the play correctly and that was about it," she said, adding that Johnson, Snyder and university President Robert Hayes have apologized for the incident.
"The school has been very nice and cooperative," Mrs. Thomas said. "They were extremely shocked by the coach's behavior. We talked to the president of the university and he was extremely stunned. He told us the coach was going to be suspended for a week and that's all."