College Football -- Idaho State Students Accuse School Of Bias -- Two Plead Guilty, Are Booted From Team
POCATELLO, Idaho - Students at Idaho State University are protesting the school's decision to kick two African American athletes off the football team, claiming Idaho State is treating the athletes unfairly.
A third football player, defensive back Brion Bethel, said at a student protest on campus Monday that he was dropped from the team Sunday, after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor criminal charge with the understanding that the plea would allow him to continue playing.
A school official disputes the charges. Athletic Director Kelly Wiltbank said yesterday that no final decision had been made on Bethel's future at Idaho State.
About 40 students and others took part in the protest. "Let them play, let them play," marchers chanted.
The protest, organized by the Black Student Coalition, came as a surprise to the faculty adviser, James Yizar.
"What is happening is that the students feel that they have not had a chance to be heard, or at least the athletes involved in the situation," Yizar said.
As a result, Wiltbank said he has been invited to a campus meeting tonight to discuss race relations.
"I'll be there," he said.
Besides Wiltbank, representatives from the Bannock County prosecutor's office, police department, students and the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will meet to clear the air, Yizar said.
Five current and former football players were charged with having sex with 14- and 15-year-old girls, statutory rape. Later, Prosecutor Mark Hiedeman reduced the charges to misdemeanor battery because the alleged victims refused to testify in public.
Football players Ike Johnson and Thomas Washington pleaded guilty, were fined $350 and placed on a year's probation. Head Coach Brian McNeely informed them they were permanently kicked off the team.
Former players Sam Carter and Derrick Carter, no relation, pleaded guilty to the same charges.
Patrick Lee, an ISU basketball and track athlete, said at the protest rally that Johnson and Washington were treated harshly because they were black.
"It could have been any one of you standing here that was made an example of," Lee said. He claimed other football players have been charged with misdemeanor crimes, but have not been suspended. Lee said protests would continue through the end of the week.
Protesters also were critical of Jan Anderson, dean of students at Idaho State. They claimed she didn't meet with students or the athletes before making a recommendation to President Richard Bowen, who made the final decision to permanently suspend Johnson and Washington.
Anderson wasn't on campus yesterday, but Wiltbank denied that Bethel has been kicked off the team.
"We left the decision to the dean and the president," he said. "They made two decisions and they are going to make another one."
-- Arizona wide receiver Richard Dice has a sprained left knee and will miss at least one game. Dice, the team's go-to receiver, had 21 catches for team highs of 375 yards and five touchdowns.
The Wildcats (3-2) just had a bye week and were practicing for their road game Saturday against UCLA when he was hurt.
-- Two Florida State-Auburn matchups were announced, which could pit father against son. Coach Bobby Bowden's Seminoles will host his son Terry's Tigers on Sept. 11, 1999. The next year, Florida State will play at Auburn on Sept. 23.
The Bowdens are expected to be with their respective teams through the turn of the century. Florida State is completing negotiations with the elder Bowden on a $1 million-per-year contract that will run at least five years. Terry Bowden is on a similar five-year deal at Auburn, which would ensure he would be coaching the Tigers through 2000.
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