Virginia State to investigate Winston-Salem State fight
Virginia State football coach Latrell Scott says there was a "rush to judgment" after a fight at last week's CIAA championship luncheon left Winston-Salem State's quarterback injured and caused Saturday's game to be canceled.
"I acknowledge that we had one young man who made a bad decision, as young men sometimes do," Scott said Monday during an often-contentious press conference attended by many team members and some parents.
Trojans running back Lamont Daniel Britt has been charged with misdemeanor assault inflicting serious injury in the fight involving WSSU's Rudy Johnson.
Scott said four Trojans players were questioned after the incident, but Britt is the only player to have been charged.
Citing the ongoing investigations, Virginia State officials declined to comment on what precipitated the fight.
Johnson, however, offered details of the fight and a different account of what happened during a press conference later Monday on Winston-Salem State's campus.
The quarterback said he was punched, stomped and kicked by as many as six Virginia State players during the fight.
Johnson said when he entered the bathroom, the Virginia State players asked if he was the Rams' starting quarterback and as he washed his hands, "somebody hit me on my blind side."
He said he felt "four or five feet stomping on me and kicking me" and the Virginia State players fled when two other Winston-Salem State players emerged from their bathroom stalls.
Johnson said he couldn't identify the Virginia State players because, "I could barely see the guy who hit me until after he hit me."
Johnson said he has not hired an attorney, has not decided whether to bring criminal charges but declared that "I'm positive I'll play Saturday."
Winston-Salem State, the No. 6 seed in its region, plays fourth-seeded Slippery Rock in the first round of the Division II playoffs.
The CIAA, which decided to cancel its championship game, also declared Virginia State ineligible for postseason play. The Trojans and Winston-Salem State both had 9-1 records heading into the championship.
"As you all know, things in life happen, and when things happen, right or wrong, you deal with them head on, and we are committed as a university and an athletic department to deal with this situation head on, honestly, truthfully and with integrity," said Scott, in his first season at VSU.
VSU President Keith Miller said the school is cooperating with local authorities and conducting its own investigation. He said he hopes to have the results of the probe "in the next week."
Miller said Britt is suspended indefinitely pending the outcome on the school's investigation, and that after a season of great accomplishment for the team, "Friday afternoon's event has tarnished that work, and we are disappointed."
Miller expressed regret that the game was canceled but said he understood the decision, drawing the ire of parents who angrily questioned Miller, Davis and Scott that the event, held on the campus of Winston-Salem State, was allowed to lead to the cancellation and postseason ban.
"Did anybody speak up on behalf of our children?" asked Kimberley Thorpe, whose son, Justin, was the Trojans' quarterback. "Did anybody, did any one person raise their hand and say, `Slow up. Wait a minute. Stop. Let's have a reasonable, rational conversation,' because that's my job as a parent, to be my son's advocate, and since I was not there, and I entrusted him to this university, I want somebody up there to tell me that you spoke up on his behalf.
"That's what the people want to hear. That's all we want to know is that somebody that has power, or perceived power, did something other than negate their whole season."
Miller said he asked the league to consider other options, but it wasn't his decision.
"We're as frustrated as anyone," Miller said. "We're as dismayed as anyone. We're a family at Virginia State University and this has been challenging for everyone involved. Everyone involved.
"So we're doing the best we can in regards to responding, but there are a lot of issues still out there, and we look forward to having those issues resolved and having the facts come out."