Three Maryland football players were suspended for one game for their involvement in a College Park bar fight on Halloween night, Terrapins Coach Ralph Friedgen announced yesterday. Six other players at the bar -- the Cornerstone Grill and Loft -- were also disciplined.
Friedgen also said three players admitted to underage drinking at a different location on the same night and one of them received a suspension of at least one game. Some other players received lesser penalties for breaking team rules that night, but Friedgen did not specify how many.
Citing federal privacy laws, Friedgen and Athletic Director Debbie Yow declined to name any of the players who were involved in the incidents. Sources said the suspended players include starting wide receiver Derrick Fenner, who came to practice on Thursday wearing a bandage on his head, and wide receiver Drew Weatherly, who missed practice on Thursday.
Attempts to reach Fenner and Weatherly yesterday were unsuccessful. On Thursday, Fenner declined to comment about the incident.
The Prince George's County Police Department is continuing to interview witnesses in connection with the case, which is being investigated as an assault. Mike McDonald, a bouncer at the Cornerstone, had his nose broken in two places during the fight, his mother, Joyce McDonald, said. Joyce McDonald said her son met with a lawyer yesterday, but the family has not decided what to do next.
Friedgen declined to provide specifics about the fight, citing the ongoing police investigation. He said the three players who were involved in the fight all said they were acting in self-defense, but that he decided to take action before the police investigation was finished to send a message to his players.
"Some of [the penalties] weren't very popular with our players, but I did what I felt like had to be done," Friedgen said. "The message has to be sent that this type of action will not be tolerated."
As part of his investigation, Friedgen said he interviewed players, threatening to revoke their scholarships if they weren't forthcoming. He said leveling the penalties was one of the most difficult things he has done during his five years in College Park.
The three players suspended for their actions at Cornerstone also were given official letters of probation and will be dismissed from the team if they violate further team rules, the school said. They also lose complimentary tickets to two upcoming games.
A news release issued by the university said that two of the three players "have indicated their intent to file charges against their alleged assailants once their identities are secured."
The six players at Cornerstone who did not participate in the fight were disciplined for either violating the team's curfew -- 11:30 p.m. on weekdays -- or for breaking a team rule against drinking alcohol during the season, or both.
Players who violated curfew and drank alcohol received letters of reprimand. They will be required to perform 10 hours of community service and will lose complimentary tickets to two games. Players who merely broke curfew will not have to forfeit their tickets.
Two of the three players who admitted to underage drinking at a different location have not played this season and will likely redshirt. Instead of suspending them, Friedgen will require them to perform 10 hours of community service and participate in a ride-along with university police. All three players will also be put on probation, the school said.
Friedgen said he was holding his players to a higher standard than ordinary students would face because they represent the entire team and university.
"The fact that Ralph decided to suspend three players even though those three players have insisted that they acted in self-defense should give you a pretty clear indication of how serious we are about ensuring that our players get the message," Athletic Director Debbie Yow said. "We are not police. We do not know if they acted in self-defense or not . . . but regardless of that, they put themselves in the position by being in the location at the wrong time."
Friedgen said he hadn't decided when the suspensions would be served, or whether they would all take place in the same game. Maryland does not play this weekend and has three remaining games: at North Carolina, against Boston College and at N.C. State. The team must win at least two of those games to be eligible for a postseason bowl.
Yow said she would leave the timing of the suspensions up to Friedgen to ensure that the rest of the team would be damaged as little as possible.