Arkansas coach vows suspensions

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Arkansas basketball coach John Pelphrey said Thursday he will suspend at least one player 2-3 games following a rape investigation that did not result in charges.

The athletic department released a statement from Pelphrey outlining punishment in the aftermath of the allegations. The release did not name any players and Pelphrey said he could not disclose specific punishments because of federal privacy laws.

Authorities decided against charges after investigating a woman's claim that she had been raped Aug. 27 at a fraternity house. Allegations were made against three Arkansas basketball players.

"Although the student-athletes involved have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, we expect Razorback student-athletes to adhere to a higher standard and code of conduct," Pelphrey said.

The athletic department did not say how many players would be suspended, though spokesman Kevin Trainor said it could be more than one. The department also said it would include educational programming, community service, additional conditioning and "individualized meetings with an appropriate professional regarding decision-making choices" as part of its corrective actions.

The athletic department said supplemental educational programs would be provided to all players on the team.

"I can assure you that there will be meaningful consequences for those individuals who have violated team rules and have not met the expectations of conduct required of our student-athletes," Pelphrey said.

An 18-year-old freshman named three basketball players in the rape complaint, saying one forced her to commit a sex act and another began a sex act with her a short time later in a locked bedroom at the fraternity house.

Prosecutor John Threet decided against filing charges, saying the investigation didn't show that the woman was unaware a sex act occurred or that she was unable to say no.

John Bass, a Springdale attorney representing the woman, issued a statement after the school's announcement.

"Clearly this is not the justice the victim seeks," Bass said. "She and her family are disappointed that this action was taken before the University of Arkansas' Office of Community Standards and Student Ethics has had an opportunity [to] hear the merits of the victim's ethics complaint filed shortly after the incident."

Bass has said the family might request a special prosecutor be appointed to re-examine the case because Threet has family ties to the university's athletic department. He also said a civil lawsuit was a possibility.

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said his department's review was separate from any review the university might conduct.

"Our student-athletes certainly are subject to the university's process as well," Long said. "We reviewed all the information that was available to us from the police reports and those things."

The university said it is conducting an inquiry into "possible violations of the code of student life" at the fraternity after "allegations that the fraternity held an unregistered party on August 27, and served alcohol to minors."

Since becoming the Razorbacks' coach in 2007, Pelphrey has disciplined players several times, including at the end of last season when he suspended Jason Henry days before the Southeastern Conference tournament for an unspecified violation of team rules. Henry is no longer with the team.

Former guard Patrick Beverley also said somebody wrote a paper for him while he was with the Razorbacks, and the NCAA put the team on notice about its low academic-progress rate.

Arkansas Chancellor David Gearhart gave Pelphrey his unqualified support last week, and Long echoed that sentiment Thursday.

"I think that coach Pelphrey and his staff have taken very substantive steps, and they've dealt with discipline and missteps in their program," Long said. "They have not looked the other way. They have not explained those away and offered excuses."

Long said he understood the athletic department's cryptic release Thursday would leave several questions unanswered. He said the announcement reflected the legal advice he received.

"We were strongly advised that we can't connect the penalty with the individual student-athlete," Long said. "I think that over time, it will be able to be observed who's getting what penalties."