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NCAA suspends 14 Marshall athletes

The Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.

Friday, August 31, 2001

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The NCAA has suspended 14 Marshall athletes for improperly receiving extra work benefits, the school said Thursday night.

The announcement, which involves 12 football players and two men’s basketball players, was made two days before the Thundering Herd opens the football season at No. 1 Florida.

According to the NCAA, two football players must sit out one game; 10 football players will miss three games; and the basketball players must miss 30 percent of the upcoming season.

Sports information director Ricky Hazel said some starting players were among those suspended, although he wouldn’t release any names. He said quarterback Byron Leftwich – a 3,000-yard passer last season – wasn’t among them.

Neither the school nor the NCAA said what the extra benefits were or who gave them. A statement issued by the school said the benefits were given prior to February 2000.

The penalties will be served immediately while the university appeals.

”This is unfortunate, but I prefer to reserve further comment on this situation until we know the result of our appeal,” said Marshall football coach Bob Pruett.

Marshall is a 30-point underdog to Florida and the announcement is sure to dampen enthusiasm the three-time defending Mid-American Conference champions had heading into its season opener.

Players were tight-lipped about the suspensions.

”I didn’t know anything about it,” said running back Chanston Rodgers.

Thursday’s announcement was unrelated to a current NCAA investigation into study materials given to several athletes by an assistant professor two summers ago.

The Associated Press had reported that Bruce McAllister, an assistant professor of anatomy and physiology, gave a study guide to students in his class and told them to read it over. The study guide ended up being the actual exam.

McAllister, who also served as a flexibility coach for the football team, was fired.

Marshall reported those allegations in October 1999.

Dave Wellman, the university’s director of communications, declined further comment Thursday night.

”I can’t say anything except what’s in the statement,” he said.

Marshall has been hit with NCAA sanctions at least twice previously.

In 1969, the MAC suspended Marshall indefinitely and the NCAA placed it on one year’s probation after 144 football recruiting violations were revealed.

In 1989, the men’s basketball program was placed on two years’ probation and in 1991 was banned from postseason play after NCAA rules infractions were uncovered. Coach Rick Huckabay resigned after the school reported the violations.