Howard University's nonscholarship tailback Ivan Thompson, who last week said he had to play without enough to eat, and his roommate, Ricky Tripplet, have been dismissed from the team by Bison Coach Floyd Keith.
Thompson, the team's starting tailback for three weeks this season, also told The Washington Post yesterday that Keith pushed and shoved him, shouted and cursed at him Tuesday while telling Thompson he was off the team. s
"I did not physically abuse Thompson," Keith said yesterday.
Thompson, who transferred to Howard from an Oregon junior college last year, said he was kicked off the team for tell The Post last week that he had not received a meal plan he said Keith promised him and subsequently had not eaten for days at a time this season.
Keith said Thompson could remain on the squad if he apologized to him, the team and the school administration for comments made to The Post.
Tripplet, who started almost every game as a defensive back last season, said Keith told him Monday he had missed too many practices (Tripplet showed The Post a physician's letter advising him to rest his dislocated left shoulder three weeks) and was no longer of any use to the coach or the team.
"Tripplet is no longer with this football program because he's missed entirely too much practice time," confirmed Keith, "but I did not kick Ivan Thompson off the team. All he had to do was come in an apologize to me, the team and the university -- publicly. He has brought undue criticism upon the university and discredited the school's administration. It's his decision whether to apologize."
Said Thompson, "There is no way I will apologize for telling the truth about what I have been going through the past few weeks. With the way he confronted me Tuesday, I don't want to play with someone that egotistical and dogmatic. I consider myself no longer a part of the team."
The former players also said in a two-hour interview yesterday:
That past allegations of the school's coaching staff having physically abused players are "true, true, true," and that Keith pushed and shoved Thompson Tuesday when Thompson tried to attend practice. Several players said they heard Keith shouting at Thompson.
That the players rode a bus back from a game in Charleston, W. Va., for almost 10 hours with no food.
That two unnamed players were caught outside their rooms after curfew (11 p.m. Oct. 9) trying to find an open restaurant and were told by Keith they could not suit up for that Saturday's game. But the team held a meeting later that night, then told Keith it had decided if the two players in question were suspended, the entire team would boycott the homecoming game, which Howard won, 49-7, over Delaware State.
The Post has obtained a preliminary draft from a special task force set up by the university to investigate reports of previous abuses charged against the athletic department and coaching staff. The report, which will be presented to Howard President James Cheek, alleges that there were two incidents of physical abuse by the coaching staff last season, and that the food program for the athletes is deficient.
Thompson said he was so upset by the incident with Keith Tuesday that he took notes of what had happened as soon as he returned to his room.
"Tuesday afternoon I went to practice after class at 4:10 p.m. and I was walking through the tunnel (that connects the locker room and the playing field) when Coach Keith told me I was no longer a part of the team," Thompson began.
"I was shocked."
"He told me that 'I'm the head coach and I don't want you around me or my football team anymore because you have caused too much of a ruckus by telling those lies to the newspaper.'
"I told him I told the truth and I wanted to rejoin the team (Thompson missed practice last week and Saturday's victory over Virginia State with a mild case of tendinitis in his right knee). But he flung his body in front of the door that leads to the tunnel and said he didn't want me on his field. I reached for the door and he grabbed my hand. He wouldn't let me by.
"I insisted on going to practice, then he began pushing and shoving me, shouting, 'Get back, get out of here' and cursing me. It was hard to keep my cool because I'm sure he was trying to provoke me into hitting him first. I told him, 'Coach, this isn't fair,' and he said, 'I don't give a --- how you feel because you caused me, my team and this administration to be looked upon negatively in terms of recruiting and integrity.
"He shouted me down and degraded me. He told me he didn't have confidence in my ability anymore. What really hurt me was when he said, 'The way I feel about you as a person now, I wouldn't help you even if I could. You'll never play another down at this university.'"
Last week Keith said Thompson was his starting tailback and he had complete confidence in him. Thompson gained 231 yards on 35 carries and scored one touchdown in four games this season for the 3-2-1 Bison.
"I'm not surprised one iota by them (the roomates) saying these things," Howard Athletic Director Leo Miles said when informed of the charges. "Why don't they come to me with these things. I'm going to meet with the team. I welcome an NCAA investigation."
"This whole thing is ridiculous," said Keith. "Needless. I have just about said all that I can say, anyway. The kids are roomates but there's no connection between the two cases. They just happened to occur at the same time," Keith continued. "I've been making a decision on Tripplet's status for at least a week."
Tripplet, from San Bernardino, Calif., dislocated his right shoulder near the end of last season and stayed in Washington this summer to "rehabilitate it just so I could play football this fall."
"We have a large family and my mother's poor so the only way I could afford to come 3,000 miles to get an education was on some type of scholarship," said the consumer affairs/business administration major. During practice this fall they moved me from defensive back, where I had played for two years, to fourth-string tailback. It was part of a phase-out.
"Coach Keith told me I wasn't that good and he had better people than me on his team. I could accept that. Not being a starter or not playing at all. But Keith said he had heard that I had said bad things about him and the team, so it became a personal thing.
"When I suffered a dislocated left shoulder in practice three weeks ago, the coaches didn't even ask how I was, or want to know how I was progressing. tKeith has a policy that injured players are supposed to be on the sidelines during practice, and I admit, I did stay away from practices altogether. I asked coach if I could use the time to catch up on my schoolwork and he said I had to be on the field.
"I apologized and said I was wrong, and I'd do whatever necessary to be a part of the team. But Monday he (Keith) said, 'You don't have a future at Howard University anymore. You can't help us. You're just goofing off. aHe didn't even bother to call me into his office. He just stopped me in the hall of the athletic building in front of his wife and father and told me that. hIt brought tears to my eyes.
"Why did I have to be kicked off the team? He could have just let me help prepare the other players on the scout team like I had been doing anyway. hI just want to earn my way through school and attain the goals I set when I came all the way out here. I thought that by coming to a black school it would be easier to do that. I don't mean any disrespect to the university but Keith has discouraged all of that."
Miles said Tripplet was removed from the team because of his reccurent injuries. "Football isn't that important," Miles said. There are no plans to take away Tripplet's scholarship.