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Tuesday, September 9, 2003
Updated: September 10, 11:49 AM ET
Academy wants Harridge incident reviewed

ESPN.com news services

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Air Force Academy game film shows a Northwestern assistant coach running onto the field Saturday and hitting Falcons quarterback Chance Harridge with a forearm before Harridge retaliated with a punch that led to his ejection, the Denver Post reports.

Air Force officials, who have refused to release the game film, have sent a letter to the Northwestern athletic department and the Big Ten and Mountain West conferences asking for a review of the incident, according to Tuesday editions of the Post.

Athletic director Randy Spetman declined comment Monday but issued a prepared statement that said Harridge "reacted to a blow to the chin he received from a Northwestern assistant coach near the Wildcats' sideline."

According to the Post, Spetman said the film shows the coach, whom Air Force has not named, was on the field and hit Harridge with his left forearm and elbow. Harridge punched the coach in the side and was ejected with 6:20 left in the quarter.

"We don't condone what Chance did, but his reaction was an instinctive one," Spetman said in the statement. "Chance is a fiery competitor, but to strike someone is certainly out of character. It was a very unusual situation for an assistant coach to be on the playing field and to strike a player."

Northwestern officials did not return calls from the Post seeking comment.

Harridge told the Post he's eager to play Saturday against North Texas and trying to put the incident behind him.

"I know what happened and the biggest thing now is moving on," he said. "My biggest concern was my playing status. I found out [Monday]. Now, the other is a dead issue."

Spetman's statement clarified the game officials' call. According to the officials' report, obtained by the Post, Harridge was ejected because of a flagrant personal foul and not for fighting. Had he been ejected for fighting, as was first indicated at the game, he would have had to sit out four quarters of playing time, including the first half of Saturday's game, an Air Force spokesperson told the newspaper.

"If I had done something like that, I think they probably would fire me and rightly so," Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry said. "I'd be very concerned if one of my assistant coaches did that. But when you're around athletics, you know it gets very competitive and very heated at times and you let your emotions get away. But, it's a done issue and it's over."

Bret Gilliland, associate commissioner of the Mountain West Conference, said Air Force's letter had not yet arrived at the conference office.