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July 23, 2007Weeks of speculation were put to rest as UTEP head football coach Mike Price held a press conference to announce his decision regarding the five players involved in a July 8 brawl outside Club Blu.
Regarding the misdemeanor charges against Isaiah Carter, Brandon Thigpen and Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith.
"I will put those players on strict probation and we will have our own in house discipline," Price said. "All of the cases are still pending and everyone is innocent until proven guilty. However, It is our basic standard procedure that misdemeanors are deserving of probation."
As for Tufick Shadrawy and Brian Wilkins, who faced felony charges, Price said both would be suspended indefinitely.
"We have to be firm in our discipline and be corrective as soon as possible," Price said. "(They) will be suspended and not play in any games until this is resolved through the justice department."
UTEP Athletic Director Bob Stull added, "Its important to understand that all of these charges are pending, but for us (UTEP) anything that happens is serious."
Despite the action taken on the five players, Price said the judicial process could take some time, but for now it remains, "Two suspended and three on probation."
Senior receiver Lorne Sam says the team backs their coach's decision.
"He is our leader, so we support whatever he says," Sam said. "We had a meeting, and everybody knew the situation. Now it's just time to support those guys and get them through this time."
Wrong place, wrong time
The brawl has not only put the UTEP football program under a magnifying glass media wise, but it opened the eyes of some of the players.
"Its good to have fun, go out and enjoy yourself on your own with college students," Sam said. "But there are a lot of dangers out there, so you have to be careful."
Price did not have the same words as Sam.
"They were at the wrong place at the wrong time and did not act appropriately," Price said. "It has put more of a public eye on our program because it is the first time this happened since I have been here. In fact I didn't know the police chief's phone number. That's something I use to have in my back pocket at some of the schools I use to work at."
"I still believe in these young men," Price added. "They are just like your own kids. You want to make sure that they act appropriately, be firm with the discipline and see if they deserve a second chance."
Stull felt lucky that an event such as this has only occurred once.
"We have been very lucky in the fact that we have not had anything major in five years," Stull added. "That's highly unusual. Its not because they are bad kids, it is because stuff happens. We are very, very fortunate."
Clean bill of health
The verdict would have come earlier but the 61-year old coach needed to take care of a few things during the past week, the main being his health.
"That's one of the reasons I'm a little bit late," Price said. "I had to get this procedure in, and take some time off for a week. Also, it also gave me time to gather information."
Once the procedure was completed Price said he has more energy and is ready to go.
"I want to first of all thank everybody that sent cards and letters while I was with my procedure," Price said. "I also want to thank Dr. Edward Assi for turning the valve of energy on in my heart and saving my life."
Stull senses that his coach is ready for the season, but hopes he is more selective in more things than his playbook.
"He's ready right now. I think he just needs to watch the prime rib he's eating," Stull said jokingly.
Carlos Silva Jr. is a Staff Writer for MinerDigs.net. He can be reached by clicking here.
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