Senior quarterback Homer Jordan rejoined the Clemson football team at its afternoon meeting today and received a game ball for the game he didn't play Saturday against Kentucky.
As Clemson celebrated its homecoming Saturday, Jordan was home in Athens, Ga., after he was ordered withheld from the Kentucky game by Bill Atchley, Clemson's president.
A terse statement by Atchley was read to the crowd of 63,500, attributing the suspension to circumstances surrounding the purchase of Jordan's 1982 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, which Clemson is investigating. Atchley cited "what may be construed in a very strict interpretation of the NCAA Constitution as a technical violation."
The NCAA has been investigating football recruiting at Clemson since January 1981 and a ruling in the case is expected shortly. It has been speculated that Clemson, which previously sought and received extra time to answer NCAA charges, is attempting to curry favor with the NCAA Committee on Infractions by suspending Jordan at this time.
It is also reasonable that Clemson, foreseeing the possibility of Jordan's being ruled ineligible by the NCAA, wants to give his inexperienced understudies, Mike Eppley and Anthony Parete, some work before being forced to use them. Eppley, a basketball point guard, completed nine of 13 passes in Saturday's 24-6 victory over winless Kentucky. Virginia, another winless team, is this week's opponent.
Coach Danny Ford said today that Jordan would participate in Monday night's practice, and that he expects Jordan to start at Virginia. Jordan started every game last season as Clemson won the national championship. The Tigers currently are 2-1-1.
The secrecy surrounding the Jordan case is most intriguing. Ford refused to permit the media to talk with Jordan today and hinted that anyone who tried would be physically removed from the vicinity of Jervey Athletic Center, where the team meeting took place.
"He will have time to give his side at the appropriate time," Ford said. "Our people are still investigating it and it would not be to either his benefit or that of the university to have him talk about it now. If he weren't such a great kid, such a great person, we wouldn't be so careful."
The extent of that care was made clear to Bob Bradley, the school's sports information director, when he called the football office a few days ago and asked for Jordan's unlisted phone number. The secretary declined to pass it along, instead calling Jordan herself with a message to get in touch with Bradley.
Ford refused to be quoted about the case in any other way, referring questioners to Atchley, whose telephone went unanswered.
Earlier, on his weekly television show, Ford said, "Homer paid a great price for something I'm not sure right now is all his fault."
Jordan bought the car from a Chevrolet dealer in nearby Easley and reportedly was assisted in the purchase by Gene Tollison, a Clemson booster for whose construction company Jordan worked last summer. Tollison has denied that he provided any money for the purchase and has refused to discuss the case, while contending he was "harassed" by the NCAA.
Jordan's teammates showed what they thought of the fuss by the presentation of the game ball.
"A lot of guys were mad and we wanted to win the game for Homer, so we dedicated the game to him," said tailback Cliff Austin, Jordan's roommate, who scored three touchdowns.
"It hit us like a blind-side shot," said Andy Headen, a senior defensive end. "It felt like we were stabbed in the back. It would be the same if it happened to anyone on the team."
Athletic Director Bill McLellan, whose 11-year tenure encompasses the basketball scandals that resulted in NCAA probation, was asked if he was surprised by Atchley's action. His reply, according to the Charlotte Observer: "Nothing surprises me any more."
Howard, a 62-3 loser to Florida A&M, also lost starting tailback Melvin Sutton with a shoulder injury. His status for Saturday's game against Delaware State is very doubtful. Quarterback Sandy Nichols, who had a sore right shoulder but had to play because of a knee injury to backup Brian Sloan, reinjured the shoulder and is also doubtful for this week. . . Fullback Kenny Word suffered a shoulder separation during Virginia's 16-13 loss against N.C. State and is out indefinitely . . . Navy reported no injuries following its big 27-21 victory at Duke.
In national games Saturday night, top-ranked Washington defeated San Diego State, 46-25, in Seattle as Husky kicker Chuck Nelson, who had four field goals, set an NCAA record of 19 consecutive regular-season field goals . . . In Starkville, Miss., Herschel Walker, his right thumb still heavily bandaged, ran for 215 yards on 39 carries, leading sixth-ranked Georgia over Mississippi State, 29-22.