Four Robert Morris University basketball players, including standout forward Jeremiah Worthem, are suspended from the university for a year for their alleged involvement in unspecified activities, the school confirmed this morning.
The university last week said that Worthem and fellow Colonials Britton Lee, Evan Grey and Shaire Tolson-Ford were suspended from the team for what were described as violations of university policy, but it was not specified how long the suspensions would be, nor were their respective statuses as students clarified.
The alleged transgression “carries a mandatory one-year suspension from Robert Morris,” school spokesman Jonathan Potts told the Post-Gazette.
He reiterated the university’s position that it will not specify the nature of the alleged violation of university rules.
“No criminal charges will be filed in this matter. Out of respect for these young men's privacy, we will not be disclosing further details,” Potts said today. “As RMU Athletic Director Craig Coleman stated last week, we trust that these young men have learned from their mistake and will become better individuals as a result.”
Potts added in a later email that the four suspended players may be permitted to re-enroll for the spring 2015 semester. Robert Morris coach Andy Toole did not indicate whether the players would be welcomed back to the team when the university’s suspension ends.
“That’s something we’ll talk about when the suspension runs out," Toole said.
As recently as Tuesday of last week, the four players had worked out as team members. The suspensions were handed down before Thursday’s win against Sacred Heart University.
The loss of Worthem is a particularly significant blow. The 6-foot-6 freshman and starting forward from Philadelphia had averaged 8.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. He was also the Northeast Conference rookie of the week last week after averaging 16.5 points in victories against Saint Francis and Mount St. Mary's on Jan. 16 and Jan. 18, respectively.
Lee, a fellow freshman from Philadelphia, appeared in only four games this season while Grey and Tolson-Ford are both walk-ons.
Potts did not specify whether campus disciplinary proceedings were pending or had been completed.
The suspensions and absences of two other players -- forward/center Mike McFadden and guard Desjuan Newton -- who are deciding whether to return to the team effectively reduced its squad to eight members. The Colonials have won their past six games, giving them their first-ever 6-0 start in NEC play.
Despite the recent transgressions by some of his players, Toole noted that adherence to rules is something that's consistently espoused by Robert Morris coaches and officials.
"There’s not many weeks that go by where we don’t discuss how you have to try to conduct yourself and handle yourself on campus, in the community, in class because regardless of what’s happened the past week, there have always been a lot of eyes on our program and our players," he said. "So making the right decisions and doing the right things is something we stress on a daily basis. I wish we could get the message through to everybody all the time, but it unfortunately doesn’t work that way.”
Even with that recent success, remaining players reiterated how much the suspensions have hurt the team, both from a basketball and personal standpoint.
"I know they’re not allowed at Robert Morris games right now, but we still keep in contact," forward Lucky Jones said. "They’re still our brothers. We still have a lot of love for them and hopefully wherever they go, they continue their basketball career and do something special with it.”
Senior guard Karvel Anderson, the Colonials' leading scorer, echoed Jones' sentiments about the loss of the four players, particularly Worthem.
“It definitely hurts," Anderson said. "That’s a brother to all of us. This is a family, so whenever you lose one of your family members, that always hurts. We think about that all the time, but at the same time, on the court, it would be a shame for that to happen and for us to let go of what we’ve been trying to accomplish.
"Something like that hurts, especially for someone like Jeremiah. He was doing really well here and he was starting to get things, so that hurts him. Our relationship, personally, didn’t change at all. We have each other’s best interests at heart. Whatever he does going forward, I know he’s going to do to the best of his ability.”
- By Craig Meyer and Bill Schackner