The Southwestern Athletic Conference on Thursday suspended 41 players — including 16 from Southern University — and fined both schools an undisclosed amount for a brawl that followed the Jaguars’ loss at Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday night.
Among the 16 Southern players who were suspended, starting linebacker Jamie Payton, starting cornerback LaMarkius Pettaway and kick returner/running back Byron Williams will be out for the next two games. The other 13 players drew one-game suspensions.
Twenty-five players from Arkansas-Pine Bluff have been suspended. Five of those players were suspended for two games.
The players with two-game suspensions were getting additional discipline because the conference determined they had “used excessive force during the altercation,” according to a statement.
“We agree with the conference office’s decision,” said Southern Chancellor James Llorens in a prepared statement. “It is in line with the disciplinary action the university was considering. Coach Stump Mitchell may also impose additional sanctions of his own.”
“This was an unfortunate incident that Southern University does not condone,” Llorens said. “We extend our apologies to the university community and to those persons who love this institution.”
Mitchell later said he agreed with the SWAC’s decision.
“When something like that occurs, it’s disappointing, but you have to take steps like that to let it be known that it won’t be tolerated,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said he had no additional discipline planned, saying, “I think the conference has decided what is appropriate and necessary.” However, he said he’d schedule counseling in anger management for his team. He said he’d already had former Southern players visit and speak to his team.
“We have to be able to control our temper,” Mitchell said. “We represent the university.”
The Jaguars who will be suspended for one game are wide receiver Lee Doss, wide receiver LaQuinton Evans, defensive lineman Kenneth Hill Jr., safety Levi Jackson, running back Kaelan Mayfield, defensive back Jaleel Richardson, linebacker Corry Roy, safety Marlon Smith, wide receiver William Waddell, linebacker Franchot West, running back Terrell Alex and linebackers Anthony Balancier and Daniel Brown.
From that group of 13, Evans, Jackson and West are starters. Balancier and Doss have played extensively and have started.
Payton and Jackson are the team’s top two tacklers, while Evans is the team’s top receiver.
“It’s a challenge, but we’ve had guys in practice all year. We just have to get a game plan around the guys we have and hopefully we’ll be successful doing it.”
The linebacking corps is most affected.
Along with losing Payton for two games, Balancier is the fourth-best tackler and the main backup to Payton at weakside linebacker. Roy backs up West at middle linebacker.
Smith is the backup for Jackson at free safety.
“When things like that happen, it gives another guy an opportunity to prove they can play at a higher level,” Mitchell said. “You wish you had not lost four at one position (linebacker), but that’s just the way it is.”
Of UAPB’s suspended players, five are starters — linebacker Joe Dalton, wide receiver Dezmond Beverly, right offensive tackle Lyron McClenney, right offensive guard Colton Jones and right defensive end Damien Lee. Of those five, Beverly and McClenney will miss two games.
Southern Board of Supervisors Chairman Darren Mire, of New Orleans, said he supports the conference’s decisions.
“It’s unfortunate, but we have to lay down the discipline that’s necessary,” Mire said.
Calling Stump Mitchell a “disciplined coach,” Mire said he does not believe the coach should be punished for the postgame fight.
But that does not mean he is ready to endorse Mitchell returning as coach next year, Mire said, with the team suffering through a 2-5 season.
Mitchell is in the second year of a three-year contract. The Jaguars went 2-9, the worst mark in school history, last season.
“It’s hard to say,” Mire said, when asked if he expects Mitchell back next season. “He has another year left on his contract. We’ll see what happens.”
Mire said he hopes the Jaguars go undefeated the rest of the year.
The fight in Arkansas started shortly after Southern scored on an untimed down at the end of the game, bringing the Jaguars to within one point. But the extra point was blocked, securing the 22-21 win for UAPB.
The brawl included dozens of players, including some who swung their helmets as weapons, and Jefferson County sheriffs using pepper spray in an attempt to break up the mob.
Most of the action happened near Southern’s sideline.
The chancellors of both schools on Saturday night issued statements condemning the brawl.
Interim Southern Athletic Director Sandy Pugh stated in the Thursday announcement there were several factors that led to the brawl.
“It was another tough, late-game loss for our players and there had been problems during the game from UAPB fans behind our bench,” Pugh said. “It did not help that many of their players came to our side of the field to taunt our team after the close loss.
“However,” Pugh added, “this is no excuse for what happened. Our players have to be smarter in these types of stressful situations.”
Southern is off this weekend and next plays Alcorn State on Oct. 29 at A.W. Mumford Stadium.
The Jaguars play Nov. 5 at Texas Southern.
UAPB also does not play this weekend, but hosts Grambling on Oct. 29.
The players are not permitted in the stadium while suspended.
“What took place following Saturday’s Southern/UAPB game has no place in college football,” SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp said in a statement. “The Conference is taking this action because of the nature and seriousness of the situation.
“Officials at both Southern University and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff have been very cooperative in addressing this issue with the Conference Office, and we thank them for their cooperation. These suspensions send a clear and definitive message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”
Advocate assistant sports editor Joseph Schiefelbein contributed to this report.
The Southwestern Athletic Conference on Thursday suspended 41 players — 16 from Southern University and 25 from Arkansas-Pine Bluff — for their involvement in a brawl after a football game Saturday in Pine Bluff, Ark. Players with an asterisk drew a two-game suspension; all others are suspended for one game.
WR/H Lee Doss, DB Jaleel Richardson, LB LaMarkius Pettaway*, WR William Waddel, RB/RS Byron Williams*, RB Terrell Alex, FS Levi Jackson, FS Marlon Smith, RB Kaelan Mayfield, LB Anthony Balancier, LB Franchot West, DL Kenneth Hill Jr., LB Jamie Payton*, LB Corry Roy, WR LaQuinton Evans, LB Daniel Brown.
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
WR Cordara Frazier, SS Ryan Shaw, WR Mose Frazier, WR Dezmond Beverly*, LB Joe Dalton, DB Kevin Rucker Jr., Justin Billings, DB Charles Williams, DB Kendrick Gray, DB Antonio Richmond, FB Torrence Shelton Jr., DB Jherron Harris, RB Stephen Jones*, LB Derrick Timber, SS Brandon Fulton, LB Chukwaso Oputa*, LB Devonne Tingle, RT Lyron McClenney*, OL K.J. Smith, LG Jamaal Philips, RG Colton Jones, WR Devontaa Bryant*, WR Donnie Scott, WR Eric Thomas, DE Damien Lee.