LEXINGTON, Ky. --- Kentucky coach Tubby Smith suspended Erik Daniels and Gerald Fitch "indefinitely" on Friday after the players were cited early that morning by state Alcoholic Beverage Control agents for attempting to enter a local nightclub with fake IDs.
Daniels and Fitch, both sophomores, were caught trying to enter Varsity Blue near campus at approximately 12:40 a.m. According to the police report, they attempted to use fraudulent South Carolina drivers licenses to enter the club. They were charged with third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument pursuant to KRS 516.070, a misdemeanor offense.
Daniels and Fitch were also in violation of the team curfew, set at midnight. Adding to their troubles, Smith had announced two weeks ago that he would not tolerate another "distraction" after a series of disciplinary measures this season.
"They've seen the distractions, and I told them I'm not going to tolerate it; the next one is gone," Smith said on Monday. "I hate to say it publicly, but I'm not going to tolerate another disruption."
Smith has issued 11 suspensions for the following players this season: Rashaad Carruth (undisclosed violation of team rule; oversleeping and missing a class; violating curfew); Daniels (violating curfew/use of fake ID); Fitch (being late for a team meeting; fighting with teammate Cory Sears on a chartered flight; violating curfew/use of fake ID); Marvin Stone (late for a team meeting); Marquis Estill (late for a team meeting); Sears (fighting with teammate Fitch on a chartered flight); and Adam Chiles (undisclosed violation of team rule).
Chiles was also involved with a shocking confrontation with Smith on the UK bench during Tuesday's game against Tennessee. Smith became angered when the freshman guard talked back to him after he was asked to take a seat on the bench. The Chiles family has voiced concern through the media that Smith "humiliated" their son (the incident was captured on tape by ESPN), and they are now considering a transfer at the end of the season.
Just another item at Distractions R Us?
Asked Monday what might occur if there was another distraction, Smith said: "They're not going to be part of the team, whether it's a suspension for the rest of the year or find another program."
However, he seemed to back away from that edict on Friday, instead issuing an indefinite suspension.
"They will be suspended for the (Arkansas) game tomorrow and indefinitely," Smith said. "Then they will be evaluated... I've talked to each player, I've talked to the parents, and they understand the consequences and that there may be further punishment that will be involved.
"We've had quite a few distractions, and this is one that we hate to see. Young people, this may be something that others can get away with, but it won't be tolerated in our program... That shows a lack of respect for their team, for me, and for the program."
Smith said the fact that two high-profile athletes from the UK basketball program thought they could slip past a nightclub security man in Lexington with fake IDs was astonishing.
"Shows you how smart they are," he quipped. "That's our problem. Maybe we need to check those GPAs and SATs better."
Asked why he was seemingly erasing the proverbial "line in the sand" he drew earlier this week, Smith responded: "I never said that. I don't think I ever said it."
But when reminded of his exact quote, Smith backtracked.
"I hope I didn't just paint myself in a corner there," he said. "Because every incident is different, and you weigh the magnitude of each incident."
Asked if he felt he had lost control of the program, Smith said: "That's what I'm questioning. So that's why they're suspended indefinitely, and I've said all along we'll be evaluating everything about who's involved with the program and why these incidents have continued to occur. We'll have to address those and look from within first."
Seniors and team captains J.P. Blevins and Tayshaun Prince served as the lone spokesmen for the players on Friday.
"It probably goes on a lot of places, but if you wear a UK jersey, you have to know that you're under a microscope, you're seen, everybody knows you, and that just can't happen," said a visibly frustrated Blevins. "...It's just a dumb move on their part, and I'm really disappointed.
"We felt like we were just coming together as a team, and now it's something else."
Said Prince: "Things have been coming up that are disheartening --- this hurts everybody --- but we've just got to move on. We have to rally around each other."
Some may question whether that is possible, given the sheer number of distractions this season?
"I feel like we have a resilient team," Blevins said. "We've dealt with problems in the past, and we're going to deal with this, too. We're going to go on. Nobody's going to roll over. There's players left on this team. I don't know what's going to happen with Gerald and Erik --- that's coach's decision --- but the guys that will be on the floor, we're going to be playing with everything we have."