DENVER – Colorado State University expelled three football players Friday who were charged with disorderly conduct after an off-campus brawl in Fort Collins in April.
A fourth student also was expelled.
Junior defensive ends Colton Paulhus and Nordly Capi and junior linebacker Michael Orakpo were charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct in connection with the April 6 fight.
Student Donald Gocha also was expelled. He, too, is charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct.
The Rams had suspended the three players from the team pending an investigation. The students have until May 15 to appeal their expulsions.
Orakpo and Capi were both starters for the Rams last season and figured to play prominent roles under new coach Jim McElwain, who was hired in December to turn around a program that had suffered through three consecutive 3-9 seasons. Paulhus was mostly a special teams contributor in 2011.
Witnesses reported the fight began when seven men riding in an SUV exchanged words with another group walking on a Fort Collins street. Two people, including Gocha, were seriously injured.
Athletic director Jack Graham made this clear in a conference call to discuss the situation: Any sort of fight involving a student-athlete will no longer be tolerated.
“You must walk away,” Graham said. “In the moment, you have to call on your emotional maturity and make creative decisions to deal with the problem in a way that does not include violence. That is the standard we’re holding everyone to.”
Graham said he met with all the student-athletes and coaches April 22 to reiterate that they will be held to a higher standard because they’re the ones in the spotlight.
“We can’t define our entire student-athlete population by the actions of a small number of people,” said Graham, who was hired in early December. “That, on the other hand, doesn’t change the fact that we’re all tainted by their behavior and that we have to own responsibility for their behavior as a group.
“If we permit people who are going to behave that way to stay in our culture, we’re accountable for that and responsible for that. We have to change that.”
Earlier in the day, Graham issued an open letter in which he described the actions of the football players as “disturbing and unacceptable.”
Graham also addressed a report that Fort Collins police found steroids and marijuana paraphernalia in the residences of two of the players. Graham said in the letter that: “I cannot guarantee that our student-athletes will not use illegal substances, whether recreational or performance-enhancing – I wish I could. I can tell you, however, that I am committed, as are all of our coaches and Athletics Department staff, to drug-free athletics and athletes.”
Graham said that CSU student-athletes are subject to year-round mandatory and random drug testing by the NCAA. He also said that after he was hired he took the initiative to administer additional biweekly tests that “involved about 8 percent of our athletes in each testing session, which is well above the norm relative to other universities.”
“I think we’re taking all the right steps to make certain we’re delivering a clear message to our student-athletes,” Graham said. “Can I say it’s an isolated event? I can’t say that. I certainly hope that it is.
“We are not going to have perfect behavior. I’d like to think that would be the case. But what I commit to you is when we have people step out of bounds, we will be transparent and we will deal with it in the most appropriate and right way for our university and our student-athletes.”