Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Smoker rumors unconfirmed

October 31, 2002

One week after the indefinite suspension of junior quarterback Jeff Smoker, Spartan fans are still in the dark as to what “team rules violation” actually means.

Attempts by The State News to reach Smoker on campus or at his parents’ home in Manheim, Pa., have not been successful. And MSU officials continue to cite the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act as reason for their silence. FERPA restricts universities from releasing students’ academic and disciplinary records without their consent.

“At this point we’re not updating anything at all,” Athletics Director Ron Mason said. “If need be, I would make a statement. But right now I’m not making any statements.”

Regardless, the rumor mill has been working overtime since MSU head coach Bobby Williams announced the suspension Oct. 24.

The latest rumor had several television camera crews waiting outside the U.S. District Courthouse in Grand Rapids. But First Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Green called the whole situation a “hoax.”

“There are no charges pending against him in this office,” Green said. “I guess someone thought it would be fun, and that could be terribly damaging to the individual.”

Green said the rumor kept him from getting his work done, adding he had no idea where it originated.

Most of the rumors have centered around Smoker’s social life. If any of them are true, some believe the university’s silence will further damage the athletics department’s reputation.

“The university complies with the law because they have to comply with the law,” MSU Trustee Dee Cook said. “We don’t have any choice.

“I think we can handle the criticism. The university is a pretty big institution.”

Cook said the board was briefed on the suspension, but she did not offer a reason for Smoker’s suspension. She said she’s also heard many of the rumors.

“I have heard some of the most bizarre things,” Cook said. “It’s astonishing to me.”

Junior wide receiver Charles Rogers admitted on Monday that the whole issue has become a big distraction. But with the game against Michigan just two days away, many of the Spartans are simply trying to ignore the rumors.

“I’m really not focused on what everybody is saying,” senior left tackle Ulish Booker said. “I really don’t care what everybody is saying.

“We’re trying to keep this thing together as a family, stay focused and win some football games.”

Booker said he understands that rumors come with the territory.

But one fact remains the same:Until Smoker addresses the issue himself, everything will remain just a rumor.

“The public will know the whole story when the whole story can be told under the law,” Cook said. “This is not a public issue. Not now.”

Staff writer Alison Barker contributed to this report.

Eric McKinney can be reached at mckinn54@msu.edu.

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