By JEFF CARLTON, Associated Press Writer
AS (AP)—A college football coach in Texas is backing players accused of removing every copy of a student newspaper from racks around campus because of a front-page article about teammates being arrested on drug charges, according to a police report.
The incident happened at Division II Texas A&M-Commerce. The coach is Guy Morriss, who also coached at Kentucky and Baylor and played 15 seasons in the NFL with the Patriots and Eagles.
“I’m proud of my players for doing that,” Morriss said, according to an incident report. “This was the best team building exercise we have ever done.”
No one has been arrested over the removal of 2,000 copies of The East Texan on Feb. 25. Editor James Bright estimated the loss at about $1,100.
Campus police are investigating, school spokesman Randy Jolly said. Morriss has been disciplined, but Jolly declined to discuss details.
Also disciplined are the “football players involved in the East Texan thefts,” school officials said in a statement. Athletic director Carlton Cooper apologized, saying players made “an error in judgment.”
“A&M-Commerce does not stand back idly when crimes like these are committed,” said Dr. Dan Jones, the school’s president.
Morriss declined comment Wednesday through a school spokesman. When reached at home by a reporter from The Associated Press on Tuesday, Morriss hung up.
Copies of the weekly newspaper, which is distributed free around campus, disappeared the morning of Feb. 25, shortly after football practice let out, according to the incident report. The lead story was about the arrest of two football players on drug charges.
Surveillance video near one of the newspaper racks showed two football players hauling off all copies of the paper, police said.
An officer notified Cooper that players appeared to be involved, and the athletic director expressed concern because he “didn’t think they were smart enough to do this on their own,” according to the incident report.
A day after the papers disappeared, police interviewed Morriss at the campus police office. The coach repeatedly referred to the article about the drug arrests as “crap” and said he didn’t read it. He then said he was proud of his players, and repeatedly asked how taking a free newspaper could be considered stealing.
A policy printed in the newspaper says the first copy is free, but each additional copy costs 25 cents.
Bright, a senior journalism major, said Morriss’ reaction is “appalling.”
“He is condoning criminal activity,” Bright said. “And to me, that is unacceptable.”
Morriss is 5-5 after one season at Texas A&M-Commerce, which is about 60 miles east of Dallas. He was 27-54 as head coach for two seasons at Kentucky and five at Baylor.
Associated Press Sports Writer Chris Duncan in Houston contributed to this report.