While many students at the University of the District of Columbia weren't even aware that the football program had been suspended for a year -- an indication of how far the program has fallen -- several players yesterday expressed mixed feelings of disappointment and anger about the decision.
The UDC Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to suspend the sport for the 1990 season because of irregularities in the program. The board's move came as no surprise. Interim athletic director Leo Miles had recommended to the board in an April 12 memo that the program be suspended, disclosing that only 17 players from the 1989 roster were academically eligible.
Most of UDC's students are gone for the summer, but a few remained for summer school. None of those interviewed was aware the football program had been suspended.
But several players knew of the situation. "Yes, I'm disappointed," said James Benjamin, who completed his eligibility as a tight end last season. "There's a lot of quality football players having to sit out a year and who have no control of the situation."
Benjamin said he didn't believe the administration's reasons for the suspension, and questioned the integrity of the athletic department.
Miles said his recommendation to suspend the program "was based purely on player ineligibility."
Another UDC player, Ricardo Brooks, said the decision was not surprising. "I saw it coming as soon as I got here. The attitude was always 'win at all costs.' The coaches never made us study or go to study hall," he said.
"I'm very disappointed," added Brooks, who will be a junior in the fall. "If the coaches had taken the time to care about the student-athletes, then we wouldn't be in the situation we're in today."
Brooks and Michael Ford, a freshman fullback last season, indicated they would stay at UDC through the suspension and hope there will be a team in 1991. "I'm going to stay here and get my degree," said Brooks. "I don't want to transfer just to play football. And then if we have a team my senior year, I'll play. If we don't have a team, well, I'm not here to be an athlete. I'm here to be a student first, and an athlete second."
Danger signs had been visible months before the Board of Trustees' official recommendation. An internal audit of the athletic program in January revealed that three football players were not enrolled in the school in December, and that six others were ineligible. The auditor, Sam Halsey, said that he could not verify the data.
Coach Bobby Frazier was fired in February after the audit and a university review of the football program. Sources at the time said that the players were not adequately fed or tutored and that several players were not even enrolled in classes.
Miles, who had been retired for 3 1/2 years after serving as athletic director at Howard University for 16 years, was hired as interim athletic director in February. He said he accepted the job out of "a need to contribute to the community. I wish there was no need for me to come to this university. If none of this had happened, I would be at home happily retired. But this program needed me, and I felt an obligation to contribute to the District of Columbia.
"I see it sort of like helping an old lady across the street."