Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Nebraska staff points finger at OU game management
NORMAN, Okla. -- The University of Oklahoma student hospitalized after an incident with a Nebraska football player before last Saturday's game said he plans to press charges.
Adam Merritt, a member of the OU Ruf/Neks, a university spirit group, lost two teeth after an encounter described by witnesses as an attack on Merritt by Nebraska offensive lineman Darren DeLone.
Witnesses claimed DeLone, who was going through pregame drills on the northeast corner of Owen Field, charged Merritt, rammed his helmet into Merritt's face and then shoved the freshman into a brick wall.
After the game, a University of Nebraska official denied knowledge of the incident, but the school's athletic department issued a statement Sunday night. The statement said the school was aware of a "collision that occurred on the field of play during the official pregame warm-up period."
Monday, during a Big 12 teleconference, Nebraska coach Bill Callahan said he felt "really, really terrible" about the incident. But he said the Ruf/Nek's position near the end zone made an incident almost inevitable.
Callahan said he didn't see the incident, but said two Nebraska assistant coaches did. Callahan also suggested OU officials consider moving the spirit group, at least during pregame activities.
"I have a lot of empathy for the young man who got injured," Callahan said. "But the safety for those young kids is vital. And for somebody of game management or athletic administration not to realize that -- it's astounding to me that these kids can be right in the midst of a warm-up between these 300 pounds-plus linemen."
Merritt, who was treated and released from Norman Regional Hospital before the conclusion of Saturday's game, was knocked unconscious from the blow. His injuries required the insertion of a metal rod into his mouth, and he is scheduled for oral surgery this week.
DeLone, a 6-foot-5, 315-pound senior, was not detained by campus police. An official with the OU Police Department said the incident remains under investigation.
This is the second time in a little more than a year that a Nebraska player has been accused of an on-field altercation with a fan.
Nebraska player Kellen Houston served a one-game suspension and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor disturbance of the peace after hitting Missouri fan Matthew Scott after a game at Faurot Field in Columbia last October.