Washington State players investigated over alleged assault

"More than a handful" of Washington State football players are being investigated in an alleged assault that took place at a backyard party over the weekend, a spokesman for the Pullman Police Department confirmed to ESPN on Monday.

Commander Chris Tennant said they are in the very preliminary stages of "a complex investigation," noting that anywhere between five and 12 WSU players could be questioned. The investigation is expected to last several weeks.

The Spokesman-Review first reported Sunday evening that Alex Rodriguez, a 21-year-old senior at Washington State, underwent surgery for a broken jaw and facial injuries following the assault at a backyard party early Saturday morning.

Witnesses said several football players carried out the assault that, according to reports, also left a second student injured. WSU athletic director Bill Moos said the university was "made aware of the situation shortly after the incident occurred," and is cooperating with the police.

"We have more than a handful of names of WSU football players that were in attendance," Tennant said. "We will be talking to all of them. But just because they were there doesn't mean they are guilty of something. ... This is not a linear investigation. It kind of jumps around."

Tennant added that the number of people in attendance makes this a complex investigation. And when alcohol is involved, determining the legitimacy of eyewitness accounts can be difficult.

"A lot of times, the victims themselves [don't] really know who hit them," Tennant said. "It's not like they know these people by name. This was an open party. There was not a guest list. They just show up at a party. And just because you're big, doesn't mean you're on the football team. So we have to identify who these people are and then we have to prove that they committed a criminal act ... There's an awful lot of alcohol at these parties. Alcohol affects how you perceive things and your memory."

A school spokesman told ESPN.com on Monday that WSU wouldn't comment on team matters, and head coach Mike Leach said in a text message that "We are just getting all of the facts and we will handle it internally."

ESPN.com's Chantel Jennings contributed to this report.