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Morriss: 'I'm proud of my players for doing that'

Head coach advocates football team stealing newspapers

Published: Monday, March 1, 2010

Updated: Thursday, March 4, 2010 02:03

JAMES BRIGHT / THE EAST TEXAN

All issues of The East Texan distributed on campus newspaper racks were stolen Thursday, Jan. 25.

Between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Feb. 25, members of the football team stole editions of The East Texan, which were distributed throughout campus newspaper racks.

On Feb. 26, Crime Information Officer Lt. Jason Bone interviewed head coach of the football team Guy Morriss, who said he advocated his players' actions.

"I'm proud of my players for doing that," he said. "This was the best team building exercise we have ever done."

President Dan Jones said he met with Morriss a few days later on Mar. 1. During the meeting, Jones said he and Morriss discussed disciplinary actions for the football players involved. Morriss said he would not make any apologies for the team, and they would suffer the consequences as a team, since the team committed the action.

Bone said he met with Athletic Director Carlton Cooper about the thefts. Cooper said he did not think the players involved could have planned the theft.

"I don't think they are smart enough to do this on their own," Cooper said.

Bone led the investigation, which inevitably implicated the majority of the football team. Bone said since the papers were stolen in such a short period of time it seems likely several people perpetrated the act.

"I would say almost all of the football team would have to be involved to do this," he said.

On Feb. 26, Bone said he was asked by Assistant Chief of the University Police Department Bryan Vaughn to come to his office. When he arrived, Bone said he saw Morriss in Vaughn's office. Bone asked Morriss if he had seen the most recent issue of the paper. Morris replied with negative comments regarding The East Texan.

"I don't read that crap," he said.

Bone said he then showed Morriss the top headline on the front page of the edition, which read, "Football players arrested in drug bust." To this Morriss responded he did not pay any attention to that crap. Morriss then asked for clarification on how taking a free paper was considered theft.

Attorney Advocate for the Student Press Law Center Adam Goldstein said the actions taken by members of the football team are illegal. He said he did not think it would be a legal violation if they had a legitimate purpose for taking more than one.

"I think the problem comes when they try to take so many that it interferes with the basic purpose for why a newspaper exists," he said. "Publications can limit it to one. Certainly one is a rational number."

Bone said he told Morriss inside the paper there is a statement explaining that the first issue is free, but every issue after that costs 25 cents. Morriss said he was not in agreement with the policy stated in The East Texan.

"I guess I will be the first one out of the door in handcuffs then," Morriss said.

During the meeting, Jones said Morriss explained the comment about him being taken out in handcuffs was reported out of context. Morriss said he made the comment referring to a story The East Texan printed about him when arrived at Texas A&M University-Commerce. He said he took several copies of the paper and mailed them to friends and family, which is what he meant in the quote.

Bone said he was able to obtain video of football players stealing copies of the newspaper. The video shows football players Stephen DeGrate and Dakota Burch taking multiple copies of the newspaper from the UPD office. Bone said he continued his investigation, which led him to witness reports saying football player London Hamilton was seen pulling papers from the Sam Rayburn Student Center.

None of the issues distributed outside of the university were stolen.

The top story on the front page of the Feb. 25 issue was about two football players who were arrested in a drug bust, which may have contributed to the motive for the thefts.

Those who want a copy of the Feb. 25 edition can pick one up at the Commerce Police Department, Cowhill Express Coffee Company and Drunken Mule Saloon while supplies last.

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brett masterson
Sat Mar 6 2010 15:47
*idiot. You get the point.
brett masterson
Sat Mar 6 2010 15:43
This is unbelievable. A football player being busted for drugs is news no matter what the university. The student paper publishing such an article is appropriate. The response of the coach is completely ridiculous and if the school is to have any credibility, he needs to be fired immediately. And for any moron arguing that "you can't steal a free paper", you are as big of an idiotic as your coach.
Wyndi veigel
Thu Mar 4 2010 15:08
First of all, I am an A&M-Commerce journalism alumna so I do have a vested interest in this. For those who say campus newspapers aren't a money making operation check out The Battalion (A&M College Station's student newspaper) which makes more than a million a year in ad revenue. While The East Texan does not make that kind of money, it is still a money making operation. This fact in itself is beside the point.

Ever heard of a little thing called the first amendment, Freedom of Speech? When football players and coaches think they can stop the press by stealing the news, they violate the first amendment. The East Texan staff has done an outstanding job of covering this issue and I am very proud of them. It takes a lot of courage, dedication and hard work to follow with a story such as this and as students who are still learning, maybe even a little scary.

As a former journalism student, I can remember the incredibly long hours and hard work that goes into a college newspapers. Often on Tuesdays I can remember seeing both the sunset and sunrise because of the long hours. East Texan staff (at least when I was there three years ago) got paid a very little amount and do it for their love of the written word.

To those who say that journalists are simply the kids who didn't get picked for the team, I say, I did get picked for the team and I'm on the team that reports the truth regardless of the consequences. The coach should be fired and criminally prosecuted. The players should be kicked off the team and out of the university.

Good job East Texan.

Cody Langston
Thu Mar 4 2010 13:53
Dear Guy Morris,
You might as well just quit, I knew you were dumb, I just didn't know you were a complete idiot. If you think stealing is a team building excersice then you should never coach ever again. Stealing is a team building excersice in gangs & in prison, not in football teams. I was in the Army for 5 years, if you want some team building excersices I can give you a few tips that doesnt involve stealing or being an idiot. Hopefully the Administration will do the right thing and fire you ASAP.
Joel T
Thu Mar 4 2010 12:48
Let me precede my impending statements with this one: I agree 100% with the editorial staff of The East Texan that censorship should not be tolerated and that the individuals who were actually part of this charade should be punished. The football players who were part of stealing copies of the newspapers should be ashamed of themselves and their actions – it is not their place to limit the speech of the campus's news service.

That said, I do not agree with the actions taken on behalf of The East Texan. I love reading the newspaper – I honestly read it every Thursday. So what puzzles me is why the editor of the East Texan has used Texas A&M (College Station) and its newspaper, The Battalion, as a platform to spread this news. Why use another newspaper when we have a perfectly capable staff here? I think the goal was to cause the current crapstorm, if you will, of media coverage. The editor of The East Texan knew that Texas A&M has a large alumni base, and that the story would likely make national coverage if he called his friends and had them follow up on the story.

To say that the staff doesn't have it out for anyone or any entity on campus is misleading: they have it out for Coach Morriss. Yes, he made pompous and downright stupid statements, but as I am sure the staff of The East Texan knows, he is not the brainchild of this catastrophe that has caused our university to become the laughing stock of the entire nation.

Jim Sullivan
Thu Mar 4 2010 11:57
I am appalled that an university coach would try to throw the First Amendment of our U.S. Constitution out the window. Instead of allowing the news of the drug charges against his players stand and let the chips fall as they may, the coach appears to be contributing to a culture that lacks accountability - which very well may be systemic to the the drug charges in the first place. In other words, the coach is supposed to be a role model. What kind of role model has he been if all the expectations he has set for his team members comes from a mentality that can justify larceny?

Coach Morriss referred to the larceny as “the best team building exercise we have ever done.” How pathetic it is that the coach of a major university can only come up with illegal activity as the best bond building exercise for his team? He ought to be fired obviously for condoning the illegal behavior but also for his inability to come up something better that this for team building. But more importantly for being the sort of coach who promotes a culture that is lacking in accountability, which is obvious by his statements.

What's funny about it all now is that before the coach made his statements justifying the illegal activity, few people outside of Texas knew about this. Now the whole world knows. But the incident surrounding this news is a very sad thing. I hope the institution of Texas A&M will consider what it needs to do to restore the tarnished reputation Coach Morriss has brought upon it.

Jared Tremor
Thu Mar 4 2010 09:41
I can understand the logic behind that but can you understand that the basic reason why the football wanted the newspapers was not for themselves but to keep others from reading it? And that that act, no matter how poorly executed because the article was available in other forms, represents an attempt at censorship and an attempt to inhibit the rights I mentioned for?
Omabarde Rafiki
Thu Mar 4 2010 09:12
Jared, no I don't. The newspapers are free. If the East Texan feels angry about this situation and feels like they were "robbed", then maybe they need to establish a system that will allow students to pay the 25 cents for addtional issues. People got to the newspapers before others did. The ones who did not get a copy, tough luck. If people really want to read the paper all they have to do is go online. So no, no rights were infringed upon because it is available online.
Jared Tremor
Thu Mar 4 2010 01:34
is not infringing*
Jared Tremor
Thu Mar 4 2010 01:33
Maybe you don't think it's theft, but can you argue that the taking of the newspapers is infringing on the Constitutional Rights of Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech?
Omabarde Rafiki
Thu Mar 4 2010 00:54
Can anyone still answer my question? How does someone pay the 25 cents for a second copy? I'm still not sure it is theft if there is no procedure to pay for it.
Dansk Tex
Wed Mar 3 2010 23:37
Well, those concerned about the reputation of the school are now having their fears confirmed. The Wednesday online issue of the San Antonio Express-News has the following headline (3rd among 10 related to State and National news stories): Coach proud of players accused of newspaper theft. I had already read the online story at the East Texan, so I knew immediately what it was about. My guess is that with such a poor comment from the coach the story will be run all over the nation often in the News of the Weird sections. Of course, hiring a coach with such a poor win-loss record shows that there are others at the university not thinking before acting, too. And I've been thinking of leaving my estate to the campus! Must do some rethinking.
Jared Tremor
Wed Mar 3 2010 22:08
I did not attend Texas A&M University-Commerce because it is one of the greatest universities. I admit this openly. It did have a decent reputation though and many members of my family attended this school of higher learning. Recent events have made me hang my head at the idiocy that is occuring at this school.

After the student body passed a bill to increase the amount of money that went to the athletic department for things like equipment and scholarships, football players start being caught in drug busts. When the college newspaper decides to run a story on this rather important issue, members of the football team decide that the best course of action would be to steal all the copies of the newspaper that they can find. Yes the newspaper is free, so maybe it's not theft, but it is clearly censorship. Maybe they were "trying to protect the University's image" but which is worse, a few college students being pointed out as using drugs or making it seem that the school approves of censorship?

Which they really seem to do because the football coach wants to make it very apparent that he approves of his player's actions and that this plot to cover up a story that every student at this university has a right to hear about has been "the best team building experience" he has seen. Which doesn't speak very well of his coaching skills if he can't do something to bring the team together since he claims not to have involved in this plot.

And if they were really all that concerned about the image of our school, maybe they should talk to their coach and tell him it doesn't make the school look all that good when he makes it apparent that he considers a school funded and published newspaper "crap".

To back up for a moment, why are we giving scholarships to students that the Athletic Director doesn't think are smart enough to plan something like this? I know middle school students that could hatch this plan. Aren't our athletes supposed to be scholars first? Isn't that the purpose of coming to college? Maybe they get it from their coach who apparently thinks things like newspapers are "crap".

John Tabblebrook
Wed Mar 3 2010 22:01
Oh that's right! Rich people that live in Port Orange Florida would never deal drugs. Feel free to live in your dream world, but the reality is that there are drug dealers in every socio-economic class. I am not saying it is right, but unfortunately it is part of life. Kids living across the street from a dorm at Harvard would have just as much a chance of living near a drug dealer as they would at A&M-Commerce.

What exactly are your suggestions in preventing a situation like this from occurring again?

marvin warren
Wed Mar 3 2010 20:52
John,
Maybe in your neighborhood there are drug dealers, not mine. Matter of fact look it up Port Orange Florida look under the “Fly in”, now you quit being stupid by excepting the fact that every body grows up around drug dealers.
John Tabblebrook
Wed Mar 3 2010 19:05
Marvin... there are drug dealers in every neighborhood in America. quit being stupid.
Marvin Warren's Mom! <3
Wed Mar 3 2010 17:34
Well i personally think that the players and the coach did exactly what they planned and took the focus off of the drug charges and by you all commenting and making a big deal out of the stolen free papers yours loosing site of the real problem. Porblem being that you had a drug dealer living in a FAMILY housing unit. That to me should be the forefront of the topics or discussions because we all know you cant steal something that is FREE!!!
marvin warren
Wed Mar 3 2010 16:51
Does anybody have a problem with drug trafficking in front of the FAMILY HOUSING or is that not a big deal either? I’m sure the kids will not mind that they live by DRUG DEALERS!
Gertrud Walker
Wed Mar 3 2010 16:33
Hey William Pete do you mean Guy Morris when you stated don't be that Guy? He is a borderline imbecile.... I am perplexed please let me know.... Only in America.....
william pete
Wed Mar 3 2010 16:15
No pun intended.... Na I'm just kidding pun intended....

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