Pelphrey: ‘Appropriate Action' Will Be Taken

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas basketball coach John Pelphrey broke his silence Thursday, indicating UA's Athletic Department will take "appropriate action" regarding players involved in the incident at a fraternity house party last month.

Three members of the men's basketball team were investigated after an 18-year-old woman accused them of raping her on Aug. 27.

Prosecutors announced Wednesday no charges would be filed after determining the sex was consensual, but Pelphrey said in a statement players still could be punished pending a review of "information associated with this matter."

"We will move forward judiciously and will take appropriate action when the review is complete," Pelphrey said. "We will continue to emphasize to our student-athletes that as members of the Razorbacks program they have a responsibility to conduct themselves and represent our University and our basketball program in an appropriate manner."

Pelphrey was slated to play golf in a pro-am event with former Arkansas basketball coach Nolan Richardson as part of the P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club on Thursday. He did not attend, but Richardson said he spoke briefly with Pelphrey.

"I just said to him that my prayers go out to you, not only you, but the players and the young lady and her family," Richardson said.

Richardson went through a similar experience when he was Arkansas' coach in 1991.

A Springdale woman accused several Razorbacks basketball players of sexual assault in the former Bud Walton athletic dorm. The allegation came just days before Arkansas, then ranked No. 3, played its final regular season game against Texas.

One day after the allegation surfaced, former Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Ziser said no charges would be filed.

Richardson said the recent incident involving current Arkansas basketball players is unfortunate for all parties involved. He said it's something "you don't ever want to happen," but it's difficult to be "hands on with youngsters 24-7."

"You can sit around and talk to (the players)," Richardson said. "I know John has done it, I've done it and I know other coaches do that, about their conduct off the floor. It's just as important. And again, you try to penalize them for having bad conduct. I'm sure there will be a penalty that will fit the crime for them."

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said Wednesday the athletes involved cooperated with investigators about the "very serious allegations." But Long also said he is reviewing information to determine if "rules or policies have been violated."

Before Pelphrey's statement was issued, the second-year coach spoke to ESPN college basketball analyst Andy Katz about the incident. Pelphey, who has not returned messages left by The Morning News seeking comment, indicated he also is doing damage control.

"There was a lot of damage control, communicating to a lot of people about the information," Pelphrey told ESPN. "It's been a very, very unfortunate situation. We're trying to get to a number of spots (in recruiting) and we're trying to communicate."

This incident is the latest in a string of issues involving the men's basketball program in the past year.

In August 2008, former guard Patrick Beverley was dismissed from the team and later admitted that someone had written a paper for him, which he turned in as his own.

Several players were suspended for games throughout the 2008-09 season, including Montrell McDonald and Jason Henry. Four players from last year's team are no longer part the team, including McDonald, Henry, Brandon Moore and Andre Clark.

The program is also under scrutiny by the NCAA for its low academic progress rate and could face loss of scholarships.

Fortson Could Face Punishment

An Arkansas official has confirmed sophomore point guard Courtney Fortson could be disciplined for something he posted on Twitter, a social networking Web site, earlier this week.

Fortson's post came early Monday morning, two days before news broke the three Arkansas players were being questioned in the Aug. 27 incident. Fortson is not named in the incident report.

However, he could face disciplinary action after writing: "Im gettin it at workouts like a dude who doesnt understand the word no from a drunk girl lol."

The post was deleted from Fortson's Twitter page sometime Tuesday.

"The University is aware of the tweet," said Kevin Trainor, Arkansas' associate athletic director for media relations and communications. "As Jeff Long referenced (Wednesday) in his statement, student-athletes are responsible for their conduct under athletic department policies.

"As Mr. Long also noted, the athletic department will take appropriate action when policies are violated," Trainor added.

Sports editor Chip Souza and staff writer Nathan Allen contributed to this report.

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