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(Tenured Radical)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Last Time We Saw Joel Maturi...

...the AD at the University of Minnesota expressed astonishment at the remarkably difficult thing paying for a new, way-inflated football stadium has turned out to be. He and all the other guys pushing the idea a few years ago were, like, totally convinced it'd be a piece of cake, and now, as construction begins, the university's getting desperate...

There's also the awkwardness -- which has dimmed various inaugural celebrations -- of rape charges against one of his players, and the possibility of similar charges against three others. [UD pipes up parenthetically in what follows]:

Prosecutors call it rape at a drunken party which was caught on cell phone video [Way to record yourself doing it.] and they're charging University of Minnesota football player Dominic Jones in the case.

However, WCCO-TV has confirmed that another U of M football player who'd been kicked off the team actually organized the party.

Robert McField had been convicted of two armed robberies but was somehow still living in campus housing the night of the attack. [Another shocker!]

On Monday, Jones was charged with sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. The victim's blood alcohol was .30.

A friend of Jones had taken a video of part of the assault on his cell phone at the apartment that night. The file was deleted, but forensic experts examining the phone were able to recover a portion of the deleted file. The female in the video was unresponsive and was identified as the victim. The male in the video was identified as Jones.

...[T]hree other players, Alex Daniels, EJ Jones and Keith Massey, are still suspects in this case months after being arrested and then released.

...[The] former player, Robert McField, named only as "R.M." in the criminal complaint... [is] the one who brought the victim and her friend to his apartment in University Village, and court documents claim it was McField who gave the victim eight shot glasses of straight vodka.

However, the question is why was McField still living in University housing? The month before the party, he had pleaded guilty to two felony counts of armed robbery in Missouri.

The University had known for months about the allegations, he had actually been kicked off the football team in October because of them. It was not until several weeks after the party that McField was finally kicked out of the University.

The University of Minnesota's attorney Mark Rotenberg said: "There was a period of time between when this student plead guilty to the crimes and the date to which we got him out of the University. That time lag was unfortunate."

McField is already doing time in prison for robbery.

Jones, a junior, is strong safety from Columbus, Ohio. He is one of the Gophers' best defensive players, a two-year starter who is also a standout kick-returner. He was arrested at his apartment in University Village.

Jones is scheduled to be in court Tuesday morning and will have prominent defense attorney Earl Grey defending him.

All four players being named in the case have been suspended from the football team.

There's a game try at damage control from a local booster/reporter:

Gophers football coach Tim Brewster is so intent on limiting distractions that he is taking his team to pastoral St. John's University in Collegeville for the first week of fall camp early next month. He went so far as to ban cell phones and arrange for players to stay in dorm rooms. [Starts his piece with an evocation of the monastic devotion of the coach and his boys.]

An enormous distraction, however, fell into Brewster's lap on Monday when junior cornerback Dominic Jones was arrested and charged with felony sexual assault after an investigation that also involves three of his teammates. (Prosecutors said defensive end Alex Daniels, cornerback Keith Massey — who is Dominic Jones' half-brother — and tailback E.J. Jones are still considered suspects in the case. They remain suspended from the team.)

News of Dominic Jones' involvement stunned people inside and/or close to the program because he has been a popular team leader since arriving on campus two years ago. [Doesn't matter how often this sort of thing happens on bigtime university sports teams -- it's always a stunner to the fans.]

Jones is viewed as a veteran leader inside the Gophers locker room, perhaps the team's best player on the field and a fan favorite. He earned the nickname "Ambassador" at Brookhaven High in Columbus, Ohio, and many of his current teammates view him in that same manner.

Jones, who was not arrested with the other three players when the allegations surfaced in April, was suspended from the football team Monday afternoon after being charged. It is a devastating blow to a program that had operated in a bubble of mostly positive news and rhetoric since Brewster came on board in mid-January.

Monday brought an entirely different feeling.

As always, we should remember that a person is innocent until proven guilty. We also should remember that there is a victim in this case, and presumably only a few people know exactly what happened in that campus apartment in early April. The facts of the criminal case should take precedence over anything related to football.

But Brewster faces a delicate and difficult situation as head coach before he has called his first play. He needs to show the public and his players a side of himself other than the smooth salesman.

Jones' alleged involvement in a sexual assault case — and the sordid details that emerged in the criminal complaint — is certain to hit the players and coaching staff hard. How could it not? It would be one thing to lose a popular player and standout performer to injury three weeks before the start of two-a-day practices. It's quite another to find out he has been charged with sexual assault.

Brewster must find a way to keep his team together emotionally while also acknowledging the seriousness of Jones' alleged crime, both internally and publicly. It won't be easy. [Writer attempts to turn a coach on whose watch this happened into a martyr.]

Fair or not, Brewster's program finds itself in an undesirable position. This is the kind of national attention schools desperately want to avoid. It affects everything, whether it's image, morale, recruiting or outside perceptions.

Rather than bask in unfettered optimism of a new season under a new coach, the Gophers will enter camp under a dark cloud and with serious on-field questions.

Jones was expected to be an All-Big Ten-caliber performer this season at cornerback and one of the nation's top kick and punt returners. At only 5-8, he is one of the most explosive and exciting kick returners in college football. He is a difference-maker on a team with very few of them.

Jones' absence means an already suspect secondary will have a gaping hole in it. Those issues will be addressed in time, though. Monday was not the day to consider any on-field consequences. [Um, didn't you just do that?]

There was too much shock inside the program to think that far ahead.