Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Vick might start season on the field
Hokies athletic director Jim Weaver says it is possible three football players awaiting appeal may play in the season opener.
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Vick, running back Mike Imoh and receiver Brenden Hill each was convicted in May of three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor in Juvenile and Domestic Relations court. The players have appealed and will get new, separate trials in circuit court. Hill's attorney, Dennis Nagel, said Monday he doesn't expect the new trials to be held before the season kicks off on Aug.28. Weaver said Monday he wasn't sure if he will be able to hand out sanctions before the cases are resolved.
"I don't know if the university will allow me to do it or not, simply because of the potential threat of lawsuits by the individual attorneys representing the players, to be sure they were extended due process by the athletic department," Weaver said. "I know that sounds far-fetched, but I've talked to ... the university legal counsel."
Weaver said it's possible the players could wind up playing in the season opener, without any sanctions having been imposed yet.
"I would hope that wouldn't be the case," Weaver said.
Weaver's statements Monday differed from a May news release in which he said he would monitor the appeals process "but if there is no resolution before the season begins, disciplinary methods will be enforced."
Weaver said Monday he has not yet made up his mind on the type of punishments he will hand down. He said hypothetically, he could classify the players' actions as conduct unbecoming the program.
"Do I have the right by the Comprehensive Action Plan to implement sanctions based on that? Sure. I think I do," he said. "But before I do, I've got to check with legal counsel to make sure there isn't anything I don't know about legally that would come into play."
Defense attorney Nagel said that he and Christopher Tuck, Imoh's attorney, were asked last week by Circuit Judge Ray Grubbs, who will preside over those two trials, to list their available trial dates through Oct.12. Circuit Judge Bobby Turk will hear the Vick trial.
"Events have conspired against the players having their cases heard before Aug.28," Nagel said. "If this had been scheduled when originally appealed, we should've been able to obtain a trial date before Aug.27. But having now waited for two months to schedule it, any of those available trial dates I'm sure have now been filled. The trial dates that would have been available in July and August are now gone, so I think it's unlikely we'll be provided trial dates before the beginning of the school semester."
"It's a busy docket this summer, and I think that's definitely an issue," Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Brad Finch said.
Nagel expects the trial dates to be set on July13, but it could happen before or after that date.
The convictions stem from a Jan.27 party at Vick's and Hill's Blacksburg apartment that was attended by two 15-year-old girls, a 14-year-old girl who is now 15, and the three players. The convictions, which were for giving the girls liquor and encouraging them to strip, came after a day of sordid testimony, photos and video in Montgomery County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. Long said because of the appeals, the convictions don't have any impact on innocence and the process starts from scratch.
In the May news release, Weaver said that because of the Buckley Amendment, "student disciplinary actions are confidential and will not be disclosed" but "when the season starts, the sanctions will be readily apparent."
Tech usually announces the dismissals or the length of suspensions of athletes, though, even before any criminal cases are resolved.
"Legal counsel said not to in this case. ... That's what legal counsel advised, and I take heat for it," Weaver said Monday. "The university has certain things it wants communicated, and it's not what I want communicated all the time. Sometimes I'm outvoted."
Weaver said that when he punishes the three players, he assumes he will indeed announce what the sanctions are.
"I don't know what I'll say because this has been an extraordinary situation," he said. "I can't tell you what I'll say because legal counsel will be advising me every step of the way like they have.
"At some time I will be able to say it [what the sanctions are], I think. ... Hopefully I can say [what the sanctions are] to connect the circle and get it behind us."
Weaver made his comments when questioned by a reporter following an interview for a story related to Tech's upcoming move into the ACC.
When called with a follow-up question, Weaver said his statements weren't meant for publication, although he didn't make that request earlier in the day.
"It's all speculative, so don't write anything and don't try to put words in my mouth," Weaver said in the follow-up conversation.