Monday, December 18
Report: Jones' suspension not related to probe

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota's leading tackler, Delvin Jones, won't play in the Bowl because he has been suspended from school for a semester, the Saint Paul Pioneer Press reported Monday.

University Vice President Tonya Moten Brown confirmed the suspension to the newspaper but would not specify the reason for Jones' suspension, citing student privacy statutes.

The suspension does not relate to the school's investigation of the alleged theft and improper use of a university long-distance calling card code by players, the newspaper reported, citing unnamed sources.

Gophers coach Glen Mason said he was not disciplining the two-year starter, which means the violation is not team-related.

About 20 university students, mostly football players, have been interviewed in the calling card investigation, the school's general counsel said.

Not all are suspects, but Mark Rotenberg said Saturday that "more than a handful" of players apparently were directly involved in misuse of the calling card code, which allows university employees to make work-related long-distance telephone calls.

Rotenberg said he wasn't sure how many of those involved are football players.

The Golden Gophers leave Friday for Miami, site of the Dec. 28 bowl game. Suspensions from the team and the university are possible for any players implicated in the case.

Jones, a junior safety, will not play in the game against North Carolina State because the new semester, in which he will serve the suspension, begins as soon as the current one ends Dec. 21.

"Technically, the bowl would be played in the second semester," Moten Brown said. "Obviously, if you're not a student, you can't participate in intercollegiate athletics."

Mason wouldn't elaborate on Jones' situation following practice Sunday, and Jones declined an interview.

Jones, who sat out practice Saturday, led the team with 88 tackles this season.

Jones' absence is a blow to a secondary missing cornerback Willie Middlebrooks to a broken ankle, especially against the pass-happy attack of North Carolina State. Backup safety Eric Lee also is unavailable due to injury, and Mason said he will not lift the redshirt of freshman Dominique Sims. That leaves the starting job either to Eli Ward, who had eight tackles all season, or Jack Brewer, who was the Gophers' third-leading receiver this season but has returned to defense in Jones' absence.

"When you're not having Delvin Jones back there playing with you, it's going to be a little bit of a distraction for you," cornerback Mike Lehan said after Sunday's practice. "It's definitely a letdown."

The investigation is being conducted by Frank Kara, the athletic compliance director, who reports to Rotenberg. The results will be delivered to Rotenberg early this week. He then will issue a report to Moten Brown, men's athletics director Tom Moe and Mason.

Rotenberg said the university will report the results to the NCAA, but added it's unlikely there was any violation of NCAA rules.

The calling card code apparently was taken from an athletics staff member at one of the university's athletic complexes, making it a university matter.

"This may well be a violation of the student conduct code and be subject to university discipline," Rotenberg said. "There would be a disciplinary hearing process. There also could be other punishment that comes from the football team's rules and policies."

Rotenberg said the compliance department is trying to wrap up the investigation as soon as possible to give Mason, Moe and Brown time to react.

"We've nailed this thing down pretty thoroughly," Rotenberg said. "We have all the numbers from where the calls were made and where they were placed to."

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