University of Arkansas system president B. Alan Sugg Wednesday dramatically reduced the punishment handed out to four basketball players last week and publicly criticized both Athletic Director Frank Broyles and Coach Nolan Richardson.
The university's judicial board last week ordered a one-year suspension from basketball for four players, including star Todd Day, as a result of a dorm incident on the Fayetteville campus two months ago involving a woman who at first told police she had been sexually assaulted.The woman later told police she did not want to file charges and the district attorney said he did not have enough evidence to prosecute.
Sugg said at a news conference Wednesday the players' suspension would be invoked only through next Dec. 1. That will prevent the players from making a three-game trip to the Maui Classic, but they will be eligible for the bulk of the season.
Sugg said the players also must perform community service work.
"I felt the players should be punished through a probation and not being allowed to participate in games for a period of time," Sugg said. "I arrived at a much different punishment than had been handed out by the judicial board."
He said the one-year suspension levied by the judicial board April 8 had been too harsh based on the evidence available.
Sugg criticized Richardson, Broyles and campus chancellor Dr. Dan Ferritor for not punishing the players quickly when the incident surfaced.
"I wish Nolan Richardson had taken immediate action," Sugg said. "And I wish that when he didn't take immediate action that Frank Broyles had. Since Frank Broyles didn't take action, I wish Dan Ferritor had. Since I'm the president of the University of Arkansas system, I have to take the blame too for not seeing that a quicker decision was made."
Because no punishment was handed out soon after the incident, the players were allowed to compete in the NCAA tournament, during which the then second-ranked Razorbacks reached the Southeast Regional finals before losing to national runner-up Kansas.
Richardson had earlier suspended forward Darrell Hawkins for bringing a 34-year old Springdale, Ark., woman to the school's athletic dormitory in violation of dormitory policy.
The other basketball players mentioned in the police report, and who were previously suspended for one year, were forward-center Roosevelt Wallace and forward Elmer Martin.
The woman told police she was raped by five athletes, including one football player, in Hawkins' room in the early morning hours of Feb. 27 after going there from a night club with Hawkins. Police reports said the woman was intoxicated at the time.
Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Ziser decided not to press criminal charges after reviewing more than 100 pages of police reports. He said the woman also decided not to pursue criminal charges after reviewing the reports and meeting with him.