PROVO The college football career of former Brigham Young University running back Marcus Whalen may have died Wednesday.
BYU officials met Wednesday with Whalen and wide receiver Breyon Jones to inform them of the university's final decision to suspend them until January 2005 for violations of the school's Honor Code. Both players also face criminal charges in Provo's 4th District Court stemming from allegations they beat up and robbed an acquaintance on April 14.
The players had previously learned of the suspension, but both had appealed the decision.
Whalen's college eligibility expires with the end of the 2004 football season. He wants to transfer to play in the upcoming season for Southern Utah University, where he has already enrolled. NCAA rules, however, prohibit a player under suspension at one member institution from transferring to play at another member school.
The family has retained Provo attorney Rhome Zabriskie to represent Whalen in the criminal case, but Zabriskie said Wednesday night that he is too new to the case to comment on it.
The family believes prosecutors overreached when they charged Whalen and Jones with a second-degree felony for robbery. The players also face misdemeanor charges of assault and providing false written statements to police.
Even if the charges are reduced and neither player is sentenced to jail time, BYU wouldn't consider requests by the men to return to school if they are on probation.
"The review for violations of the honor code involving Breyon Jones and Marcus Whalen has concluded, resulting in time away from the university for both students," university spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said. "Marcus and Breyon, if they meet the conditions set by the Honor Code Office and are free from the jurisdiction of the court, could return to BYU winter semester 2005."
The penalty is considered a suspension, Jenkins said.
The suspensions mark the second time this year Cougar football players have been involved in highly publicized sanctions for honor-code violations.
BYU officials expelled the team's top running back, Reynaldo Brathwaite, and suspended cornerbacks James Allen and Shannon Benton and defensive tackle C.J. Ah You until January 2005 after an investigation into a January 2004 party.
Whalen, 22, and Jones, 21, are accused of beating up and taking cash from a mutual acquaintance, Yussufu Nsabimana, during an April 14 argument over money. They are scheduled to appear in court July 12.
Whalen led BYU in rushing in 2002 when he ran for 918 yards. He gained just 152 yards last season after he broke his foot during warm-ups before the season-opener.
He withdrew from school in April and inquired about playing at SUU, Northern Arizona, Sacramento State and Idaho State, all NCAA Division I-AA schools where he could transfer and play without sitting out the year required of players who transfer from one Division I-A school to another.
Jones, a junior from Round Rock, Texas, red-shirted in 2001 and saw limited action as a reserve receiver the past two seasons.BYU football spokesman Jeff Reynolds said football coach Gary Crowton would not comment on the suspensions because an athletic department policy prohibits coaches from talking about private student matters.