RENO, Nev. -- Reacting to the sixth arrest of a University
of Nevada football player in the past year, newly appointed coach
Chris Ault issued a new policy mandating permanent dismissal of any
player accused of a felony even if they later are acquitted.
"Enough is enough," Ault said Wednesday in announcing the new
"zero tolerance" policy.
"I cannot just sit here and say that everything is OK. We are
not going to tolerate it anymore. These players need to know that
it is not a right to wear the silver and blue, but rather it is a
privilege and they have a standard to uphold."
Under the new policy, any football player who is charged with a
felony would be dismissed immediately from the team. That replaces
athletic department policy that calls for only the suspension of a
student-athlete charged with a felony, pending the resolution of
the charge. That policy continues for the remaining 18 sports
programs at the school, he said.
The new policy is for felony charges only. Ault said it will be
reviewed for renewal at the end of the 2004 season.
A player facing a misdemeanor charge will have his disciplinary
action decided by the coach, which is part of the existing policy.
Ault said the dismissal from the team will be permanent, even if
the charges are reduced to misdemeanors, dropped or if a player is
acquitted of the charges.
Appeals of dismissals would be heard by the athletic director, a
position that Ault is filling on an interim basis until the school
finds a replacement.
"If it is a felony, they are done," Ault told the Reno
Gazette-Journal. "We have got to set a standard here. The
university does have a students' rights policy that will allow the
decision to be appealed."
Ault has been coach since Dec. 3, when President John Lilley
appointed him to replace Chris Tormey, whom Ault fired Nov. 30
after four straight non-winning seasons. Ault was the head coach
1976-92 and 1994-95.
At least one player, junior cornerback Marlon McLaughlin, said
he supports the policy, as long as it has an appeals process.
"Something could come up where it is not your fault or you are
innocent," McLaughlin said. "If that is the case, then you should
get your chance to be heard and reinstated to the team."
Players contacted about the policy change said they don't
believe the problems that have occurred recently are any different
than at any other school in the country.
"On every team there are individuals that are going to do
stupid things," senior defensive tackle Derek Kennard Jr. said.
McLaughlin said student-athletes should be held to a higher
standard because they are representatives of the school.
"It is a tough rule, but if that will keep us in line, then I
am fine with it," McLaughlin said. "I think it comes with the
Murphy became the sixth football player this year to face felony
-- Walk-on wide receiver Gary Snyder was dismissed from the team
by Tormey shortly after being arrested in January on sexual assault
-- Sophomore defensive end Craig Bailey was arrested in February
on felony battery charges following an incident with his girlfriend
in a Nye Hall dorm room. He later plead guilty to a misdemeanor
charge and rejoined the team after a one-game suspension.
-- Three players, running backs Joe Bwire and B.J. Mitchell and
cornerback Chris Handy,were indicted last month on felony battery
charges stemming from a June fight near campus. Lawyers for the
three said last week they plan to fight the charges. Bwire was
dismissed from the team shortly after the incident. Handy and
Mitchell have been suspended pending the outcome of the charges.
Ault, Nevada athletic director since 1986, said the previous
athletic department policy was a "fair and simple" one, but that
"extreme times call for extreme measures" for the football
"These things happen everywhere, but I have never seen anything
happen like this repeatedly," he said. "Am I embarrassed? Yeah, I
am embarrassed. And the coaches and other players in the program