February 19th, 2014 10:11 AM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
Tags: Denzel Nkemdiche, Matthew Baird, Ole Miss, Robert Nkemdiche
Nowhere is it more obvious that we’re in college football’s offseason than in Oxford, Mississippi. Just as soon as the final whistle of bowl season is blown, arrests and court dates begin to take over the football landscape. In the Magnolia State, the Rebels are dealing with both with already.
In January, cornerback Bobby Hill was arrested and charged with sexual battery. He is indefinitely suspended from the Ole Miss team as a result. Defensive end Channing Ward pled guilty last week to DUI charges which followed a January incident.
Apparently those issues were just the hors d’oeuvre.
Over the weekend, Denzel Nkemdiche and Serderius Bryant found themselves in trouble with the law, too. Nkemdiche — a linebacker — was picked up for disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct and failure to comply with a police officer. Bryant — also a linebacker — was nicked for public drunkenness and disturbing the peace. Both were suspended on Monday with Huge Freeze saying: “We are aware of the incidents and gathering facts. Denzel and Serderius are suspended until we know more.”
Fast-forward to yesterday when it was learned that a plaintiff has filed a $2 million civil suit against Nkemdiche, his brother Robert Nkemdiche (an Ole Miss defensive end) and five yet-to-be-named Rebel football players. The plaintiff, Matthew Baird, alleges that Denzel Nkemdiche punched him from behind and knocked him unconscious. According to the lawsuit, Robert Nkemdiche and the other five began to kick an stomp Baird while he was on the ground. This allegedly took place a year ago according to The Jackson Clarion Ledger.
Readers of this site know what our stance on this would be if it’s found to be true — Any players involved in a violent crime should be immediately tossed from the University of Mississippi football team. If someone is on scholarship and represents a university, violent criminal activity should result in immediate dismissal from the team and school. End of story. We write the same thing whenever one of these player(s)-on-student(s) issues arises.
But you also know that that’s not at all likely to happen.
First, of course, UM’s brass must determine what actually happened. A statement released by AD Ross Bjork reveals that in the school’s view, the matter has already been investigated by police which therefore makes it a closed case:
“When this alleged incident occurred, the proper authorities investigated the matter and could find no evidence of wrong-doing related to Denzel and Robert Nkemdiche or any other members of our football program. This is a personal matter for them and we will support Denzel and Robert while they defend themselves in this civil case.”
Translation: This is an issue for the players involved — not Ole Miss – and none of those athletes will be heaved from the Rebel football team as the coppers have already given them a pass. If that pass was deserved, so bet it.
As you know, the level of evidence needed to win a civil case differs from the level of evidence needed to convict persons in a criminal trial. While the original officers could find “no evidence” of an attack in the immediate aftermath, a civil court might view the same incident differently.
Blair claims that he and his girlfriend and another friend visited a campus frat house last February 17th. An unrelated fight broke out at some point during the party. Frat officials then asked everyone to leave. As Blair left, Denzel Nkemdiche allegedly “came from behind and punched him,” knocking the young man unconscious. Blair’s suit says that both Nkemdiches and five others “began to kick and stomp the plaintiff’s head into the ground.” When his friend tried to dive on top of Blair to cover him and protect him, he too was kicked and beaten, “bursting (his) eardrum and injuring his middle ear.”
By the time the police arrived, the players had left. After convulsions, a seizure, and 12 to 15 minutes of unconsciousness, Blair was treated for multiple injuries, including “a closed head injury,” according to the Clarion-Ledger. There’s no word on what — if anything — Blair and his co-horts might have done or said to instigate the alleged beating.
Blair is seeking $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.
If Blair’s attorney can convince enough witnesses to verify his client’s account, seven Ole Miss football players might just find themselves on the hook for a couple million bucks. If the players do lose their civil case, would that be enough to eject all seven from the Mississippi football team? Bjork’s statement suggests that it wouldn’t be.
Whether that’s the right call or the wrong one likely depends upon which SEC football team is your particular favorite. We will say only this: If the evidence presented in the civil suit is particularly damning — meaning multiple witnesses who apparently didn’t speak to police do speak up in court — it’s not going to look good for Freeze’s program. Especially is he turns a blind eye to the evidence presented in the civil suit.
For now, Rebel fans simply have to wait out the various arrests, citations, lawsuits and accusations made against multiple players on their football team in a two-month period. And if the start of the year is any indication, this spring and summer could be downright ugly in Oxford.
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