Croom Says No More Penalties For Suspendees

The legal process has essentially been satisfied. And so has the head coach.

Tuesday morning, Coach Sylvester Croom announced that he will be taking no further disciplinary action against the six Mississippi State football players who last week plead guilty to misdemeanor assault in relation to an April 1 incident in Starkville.

"The legal system has worked, and our players have been penalized by the court," Croom said in a statement released by the MSU Media Relations Office Tuesday morning. "They have each paid a hefty fine and essentially they are on probation for two years. They will remain suspended from the football team through the remainder of this semester. When they report back to campus this summer, the suspension will be lifted."

The Bulldogs involved are sophomores defensive end Charles Burns, safety Keith Fitzhugh, offensive tackle Michael Gates, and cornerback Derek Pegues; and redshirted freshmen quarterback Tray Rutland and defensive end Quinton Wesley. Five were arrested the evening after an incident at Level III, a facility on Main Street in downtown Starkville. Rutland turned himself in for arrest a day later. The six were initially bonded-out after their arrests, and once that legal process was taken care off all were promptly suspended from any team-related activities for both the final week of spring football practices and the balance of the school semester.

Their court appearance had been set for Monday, May 1, with the charge initially being felony assault. But on April 27 all agreed to plead guilty to a misdeanor, resulting in a $500 fine as well as the probationary period.

The incident, which occurred after midnight Saturday, April 1, happened during a party sponsored by two MSU sororities at Level III. An argument between two students resulted in these players getting into an altercation, first verbal and then physical, with an off-duty Starkville City patrolman attending the party. Since their arrests all six players have not made any comments on the incident, and most local media reports were taken from the police's report. It does not appear alcohol was involved, as the hosting group renting the facility wanted a ‘dry' event. All six players were 18 or 19 years of age.

After their initial court appearance Croom announced that all six were banned from all activities at Level III; and that they would face an 11:00 p.m. curfew through the end of the spring semester. The six student-athletes were entirely suspended from the team for the final week of spring drills, instead facing disciplinary work with the MSU strength and conditioning staff. That penalty is ongoing, and each is also required to participate in on-campus sensitivity counseling and training.

But with Croom's announcement, these players—and their teammates—know that the varsity roster and the depth chart will be intact when August pre-season practices begin. These players will also be able to take part in the summer strength and conditioning work with their teammates as usual, for both semesters.

Pegues was running first-team at left cornerback and Fitzhugh the first-team safety during spring. Burns and Wesley were the second-unit regular at defensive ends, and Rutland the clear #2 quarterback getting many more practice snaps than any other backup. Gates began camp first-team at left offensive tackle but had slipped to second-team before his suspension.

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