Tony Annese, the football coach for reigning Division II champion Ferris State, has been given a one-game playoff suspension by the NCAA after two of his players lit cigars in a smoke-free locker room after winning the national title in December.
Annese, 62, must serve the suspension whenever the Bulldogs next reach the Division II playoffs. The NCAA did not identify the two players who lit the cigars inside McKinney ISD Stadium -- a high school facility outside of Dallas that does not allow tobacco on its grounds.
"I understand the concerns raised by the NCAA. Immediately after the game, while I was in the postgame press conference, the two issues cited by the NCAA were addressed by my coaching staff," Annese said in a statement Thursday. "As a coaching staff, each day leading up to the national championship game, we had reminded our players that smoking cigars in celebration would not be allowed. My team was fully aware that the actions of the two players were inappropriate.
"No matter how minor the actions may seem, young people need to understand that there are consequences for their actions. We will address these concerns and continue to have a strong, positive football program that represents Ferris State University on and off the field."
Ferris State players also lit cigars inside the stadium after winning the school's first national title in 2021, which resulted in a fine and warning to not do it again.
"The inappropriate conduct associated with this action will not be tolerated at any NCAA Division II championship," Mountain East Conference commissioner Reid Amos said in a statement.
The university's appeal of the suspension for Annese, who is entering his 12th season at the Michigan college in 2023, was denied by the NCAA.
Ferris State also was fined $2,500 by the NCAA and charged $15,383 by the McKinney ISD for cleaning and repairs to the locker room after the victory over Colorado School of Mines.
"I continue to be proud of the Ferris State University Football program and Coach Annese," athletic director Steve Brockelbank said in a statement. "I understand the concerns raised by the NCAA and we accept the responsibility for our actions and we will work to ensure this does not happen again in the future."