ETTRICK, Va. (AP) — Virginia State and Winston-Salem State have drastically varying versions of a fight that left the WSSU quarterback beaten in a bathroom.
Competing news conferences held Monday on the respective campuses only served to highlight just how far apart their perspectives are.
The only thing clear is that Winston-Salem State quarterback Rudy Johnson was injured during a fight at a luncheon the day before last week’s scheduled CIAA championship game and a Virginia State player was arrested.
VSU coach Latrell Scott said there was a “rush to judgment” and that one player “made a bad decision.”
A few hours later in Winston-Salem, N.C., WSSU Chancellor Donald Reaves called for further sanctions against Virginia State and declared his school “damaged” by the fight.
The CIAA, which opted to cancel its championship game, also declared Virginia State ineligible for postseason play.
Johnson appeared with sunglasses at the WSSU presser, concealing the cuts above and below his blackened right eye.
The quarterback said he was punched, stomped and kicked by as many as six Virginia State players during the fight that also left him with a headache, a sore back and sore ribs.
Trojans running back Lamont Daniel Britt has been charged with misdemeanor assault inflicting serious injury in the fight involving Johnson.
Scott said four Trojans players were questioned after the incident, but Britt is the only player to have been charged.
“I acknowledge that we had one young man who made a bad decision, as young men sometimes do,” Scott said Monday morning during an often-contentious news conference held at his school and attended by many team members and some frustrated parents.
Citing the ongoing investigations, VSU officials declined to comment on what precipitated the fight.
Johnson, however, provided details of the altercation.
He said when he entered the bathroom, the Virginia State players asked if he was the Rams’ starting quarterback and as he washed his hands, “somebody hit me on my blind side.”
He said he felt “four or five feet stomping on me and kicking me” and the Virginia State players fled when two other Winston-Salem State players emerged from their bathroom stalls.
Johnson said he couldn’t identify the Virginia State players because, “I could barely see the guy who hit me until after he hit me.”
The QB said he has not hired an attorney, has not decided whether to bring criminal charges but declared that, “I’m positive I’ll play Saturday.”
Winston-Salem State, the No. 4 seed in its region, plays fifth-seeded Slippery Rock in the first round of the Division II playoffs.
Reaves said his school plans to file a formal complaint with the CIAA and the NCAA, saying Virginia State “lacked institutional control over its football team when they came to our campus.”
He said neither Virginia State President Keith T. Miller nor athletic director Peggy Davis attended the luncheon, “and the supervision of that team was left to the football coach,” Reeves said.
Reeves said Scott “refused to cooperate and … came very close on Friday afternoon to being arrested” for obstruction, adding that the coach “went completely berserk” when asked for Miller’s contact information.
“He was more out of control than his players were,” Reeves said.
The WSSU president also pointed to Scott’s previous legal problems.
Scott resigned as Richmond’s head coach less than two weeks before the 2011 season started after being arrested and charged with driving under the influence. He joined the staff at James Madison for the 2012 season as tight ends coach, and was hired at Virginia State on January 2013.
“That speaks, I think, to the character of the person who was left in charge of those 55 young men,” Reaves said of Scott. “You can’t be the leader of young men with that kind of background.”
The Trojans and Winston-Salem State both had 9-1 records heading into the championship.
“As you all know, things in life happen, and when things happen, right or wrong, you deal with them head on, and we are committed as a university and an athletic department to deal with this situation head on, honestly, truthfully and with integrity,” said Scott, in his first season at VSU.
Miller said Virginia State is cooperating with local authorities and conducting its own investigation. He said he hopes to have the results of the probe “in the next week.” He said Britt is suspended indefinitely pending the outcome on the school’s investigation, and that after a season of great accomplishment for the team, “Friday afternoon’s event has tarnished that work, and we are disappointed.”
Miller expressed regret that the game was canceled but said he understood the decision, drawing the ire of parents who angrily questioned Miller, Davis and Scott, including about not punishing those who weren’t involved.
“Did anybody speak up on behalf of our children?” asked Kimberley Thorpe, whose son, Justin, was the Trojans’ quarterback. “Did anybody, did any one person raise their hand and say, ‘Slow up. Wait a minute. Stop. Let’s have a reasonable, rational conversation.’ … I want somebody up there to tell me that you spoke up on his behalf.
“That’s what the people want to hear. That’s all we want to know is that somebody that has power, or perceived power, did something other than negate their whole season.”
Miller said he asked the league to consider other options, but it wasn’t his decision.
“We’re as frustrated as anyone,” Miller said. “We’re as dismayed as anyone. We’re a family at Virginia State University and this has been challenging for everyone involved. Everyone involved.
“So we’re doing the best we can in regards to responding, but there are a lot of issues still out there, and we look forward to having those issues resolved and having the facts come out.”