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Smoker suspended indefinitely

October 25, 2002

Junior quarterback Jeff Smoker was indefinitely suspended Thursday for violating unspecified team rules and will not play in MSU’s nationally televised game Saturday against Wisconsin.

“I can’t really go into any detail as far as what the extent of the problem was,” MSU head coach Bobby Williams said. “It was a violation, and I had to take decisive action.

“It’s in the welfare of both Jeff and this football program that this action was immediately taken.”

Smoker could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

Williams addressed the media at a impromptu press conference inside the Duffy Daugherty Football Building after rumors surfaced that MSU’s third all-time leading passer had been suspended. Williams refused to discuss what rule was broken, how long the junior signal caller is suspended or what terms Smoker needs to complete to be reinstated into the starting lineup.

“He’s still in school, and he’s still on scholarship,” Williams said. “Jeff is still a part of this football program.”

But rumors surfaced Thursday around Smoker’s social life, saying the quarterback has been involved in activities that violate team rules. Campus chatter and Internet chat rooms abounded with speculation.

University officials refused to comment on details of Smoker’s suspension or any of those rumors, citing the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. FERPA restricts universities from releasing students’ academic and disciplinary records without their consent.

“I hope people realize this is not just the quarterback. This is a student at MSU,” MSU spokesman Terry Denbow said. “This is somebody’s son.”

Smoker, who will be replaced by sophomore quarterback Damon Dowdell on Saturday, has completed 114-of-203 passes for 1,593 yards, 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

“That means the team has real problems,” ESPN analyst Beano Cook said of the suspension. “They have to be one of the most disappointing teams of the season.

“You could call them the Enron of college football.”

MSU Trustee Joel Ferguson said the suspension is a good move by Williams, embattled recently by fans wanting the third-year coach to be replaced after this season.

“It reflects that Michigan State University is not afraid to discipline even the star quarterback if he breaks team rules,” Ferguson said. “It doesn’t embarrass Michigan State. It is good that the coaches enforce team rules. I think that reflects wonderfully on MSU.”

Smoker is the third Spartan to be suspended this season. Prior to the start of the season, sophomore linebacker James Cooper and sophomore safety Robert Flagg were suspended for the season opener against Eastern Michigan. Officials also refused to disclose the grounds for those suspensions.

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

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