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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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william pete
Wed Mar 3 2010 16:11
Now now, if only the football team could execute something like this on the field they might actually produce a winning season. Word to the wise..... Don't be that Guy!!!!
william pete
Wed Mar 3 2010 16:10
Now now, if only the football team could execute something like this on the field they might actually produce a winning season. Word to the wise..... Don't be that Guy!!!!
Kevin Morris
Wed Mar 3 2010 13:35
To Mr. Morriss,

I would like to congratulate you and your football team for taking the reputation of such a respectable, well-rounded school and athletic program and flushing it down the drain. I know many people who attend and work at TAMU-C and know that the school is a great place to get a higher education. However, it seems like you and your team can't see that your actions affect the entire school.

You and your football team need to grow up and stop playing these petty games. This is the real world, and in the real world there are these things known as consequences.

Since you are the coach, I hold you completely responsible for the actions of your team. I realize that the football season is over and the only thing left for your football players to do is drugs and stealing the school paper. Here's an idea. What if your athletes actually sit down, study, and make good grades so that they can be of some value to society when they get out of TAMU-C? This would actually require thought which is too much to expect from you and your team.

I realize the last paragraph is grossly exaggerated, but you need to realize that this is now the view of the general public outside of TAMU-C.

To TAMU-C,
Fire him and move on.

To the paper stealing football players,
Yes, I would like fries with that.

Sincerely,
-Kevin M

Candice Gilliam
Wed Mar 3 2010 11:30
Ricky, check out LSCScoop.com. I'm guessing that is probably who he is talking about. They are kind of like an ESPN but only for the conference. Just as I posted below, Mr. Cooper released his statement to the LSC Scoop yesterday.
Ricky Moser
Wed Mar 3 2010 11:21
This is to Grow Up: You say that this football team receives 8 million more times publicity from places other than the East Texan? I tend to wonder where you have been. I don't recall a SINGLE issue of the East Texan since coming here in the Fall of 2007 that did not have a PAGE dedicated to the football team or athletic department. Some good (if they won a game) some bad (if they lost). How many of those other publications have articles on the Commerce Lions in EVERY issue??
Jessica Knausz
Wed Mar 3 2010 10:44
Your Athletic Director just called the football team stupid! LOL! "I don’t think they are smart enough to do this on their own" They stole newspapers - how smart do you have to be to steal a newspaper! Maybe you should look at the big picture and try to protect your school and football teams reputation instead of making a big deal out of this!
Robert Reed
Wed Mar 3 2010 01:23
As an athlete at A&M Commerce, this news is troubling. The reputation of the athletic department as already on the mend and this is just another blow. I will say that in recent memory the news reported by the East Texan have been somewhat one sided and negative (news about the football stands, drug busts, athletic referendum). Yes, the sports news is reported but is often overshadowed by the negative stories that grace the front pages.

Now, with that said, I understand what the East Texan's role is. They are doing their job. This publicity, unfortunately, is probably the most recognition that our school will receive all year and the paper will benefit from reporting this news. I will be going to get the report from the police station ASAP to read everything, but I do find it hard to believe that an athletic director and football coach would make those statements "verbatim." If this is the case, than I will gladly put my foot in my mouth.

The reason this is most troubling to me is because I know the players personally. I was a tutor for the athletic department last semester and spent four nights a week not just tutoring these players but getting to know them on a personal basis. It bothers me because I know them as dedicated athletes and students, and this news does not seem like the student athletes I helped last semester. I just hope that this is a lesson for all athletes and students here in Commerce. We learn from our mistakes and once again the athletic department will have to rebuild its image because of this incident. The good news of the athletic referendum passing is constantly overshadowed by events such as this and the negative viewpoints of the East Texan. Even though this is warranted, I just wish this was different and sadly, the athletes are the ones who are responsible, including myself.

I will say that I have taken more than one East Texan on certain occasions. My mom likes them for the running results, they are great makeshift umbrellas and there is nothing better for drying out shoes, after I read them of course. What was done is wrong, but I can understand it. The student athletes were trying to protect the reputation of their teammates. It was theft, it was wrong, but I can understand it and I can understand whatever consequences are laid upon those and the athletic department.

It seems as if Coach Morriss knew about what happened and that is the most troubling of all. As a leader of 85 men, his statements were probably out of frustration, but still added more fuel to the fire. I guarantee if these statements were not made by Coach Morriss or Mr. Cooper, this would not have blown up the way it did. But it has and there is nothing we can do now but accept our mistakes, take necessary action and move on.

As one of the many proud athletes on this campus, I hope we can give this paper, alumnus and current students reason to believe in the athletic department again. I believe that we have the right people in place to move forward and make necessary changes to make A&M Commerce a great athletic program.

Omabarde Rafiki
Wed Mar 3 2010 00:53
Nicole, I know it is on the honors system. I still would like to know how do we pay the 25 cents if we take more than one?

Did anyone see the Fox 4 news coverage on this story earlier tonight? I think that was taking it a bit too far.

John Tabblebrook
Wed Mar 3 2010 00:52
Thanks for the update Candice. I think this whole thing would have stayed on the down low if the athletic department had made a statement like this to our student body in the beginning. Admitting you are wrong and apologizing goes a long way.
cw cw
Wed Mar 3 2010 00:38
Morriss and staff have taken care of business regarding the drug dealing "thugs." Morriss was obviously quoted out of context regarding the disappearance of papers from the "news" racks. I know first hand that Morriss is trying to change the image of the football team. He adopted a team that needed some direction. Regardless, Morriss showed support for his players. That is key in building team chemistry. No I don't condone taking the papers. However, these players were obviously trying to look out for the football program and Texas A&M Commerce as a whole. The actions of a few do not speak for the whole team. Let this thing die and lets re-evaluate everything at the end of the football season or later. I wouldn't anticipate any other drama regarding the football team any time soon. Adopt a "wait and see" attitude and let this BS die!
Nicole Clifton
Wed Mar 3 2010 00:30
Omabarde, the "free, take one" is based on the honor system, if someone takes three, yeah, they're stealing, but at least they left some for others to read. The football team took over 2000, costing the newspaper about $1,600 including salaries, production costs, and price of the papers (excluding about 86 papers, which is one free paper per player), and others weren't able to read the newspaper.
Omabarde Rafiki
Tue Mar 2 2010 23:59
I have a question. If a person takes more than one newspaper, how is he or she to pay the 25 cents for the second copy?

The papers lay in open racks. Are they supposed to just lie the quarter next to the rack or something? Sure we may have some “thug” athletes on the football team. What football team in America doesn’t? Let’s not forget that there are some high quality student athletes in the athletic department. It is a shame that American society always tries to point out the negatives in any situation, just to make a story.

I can assure you that the athletic director has a deep passion for the athletic program. He has made some great improvements in the few short years that he has been here and is continuing the department’s improvement. Don’t lose faith in the athletic department over one bad incident. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes in life and everyone deserves a second chance.

Candice Gilliam
Tue Mar 2 2010 23:53
The Athletic Department finally released a statement I saw on LSCScoop.com. There's not much to it, but it's a statement at least.
Nicole Clifton
Tue Mar 2 2010 22:57
Lion Alum,
Did you not read the paper about the East Texan Staff? They published that story the exact same way that they published the story about the football players, same page (FRONT), same place (TOP STORY). All the information that was needed was given. Had you read the story, you would know that there was only one person involved that was a part of the East Texas Staff, and he didn't actually steal any of the computers. And he was punished justly for what he did. The reason that such a big deal wasn't made is because they didn't try to hide the story and do team building exercises. Had Mr. Morriss not encouraged his team members to steal instead of practice, there would not have been an ordeal such as this. The football players would already be old news. Should The East Texan and the university treat the football players like the gods they're not and not run a story about them? It's news! If you don't want people hearing about it, then damnit, don't do it.
Jacob Pichnarcik
Tue Mar 2 2010 22:57
By the way "coach," your team owes all the businesses that bought advertising in the East Texan a refund.
Phillip S
Tue Mar 2 2010 22:53
lol at Lion Alum. You mad you graduated from a school with a bad football team? There are so many more important things in life (but I'm sure you can't think of any).

What kind of football team do you guys have over there? I mean seriously, sounds like a bunch of idiots and hooligans. Dealing drugs and theft? If that's a team-building exercise I'd hate to see what you guys do out on the field. Smoke doobies and steal Gatorade?

The coach should be fired. The school should cut back on funding for its athletics program until a new director for it can prove that they can raise a responsible team of adults and that they deserve that slice of the budget. What does a college football program do anyway besides build up a bunch of kids' hopes that they'll make it to the NFL before dashing it completely when they leave college to flip burgers?

Jacob Pichnarcik
Tue Mar 2 2010 21:41
Oh, I forgot to congratulate the coach for making us a national story. Indeed, your attitude and mouth has made us all proud to be members of this fine institution.
Jacob Pichnarcik
Tue Mar 2 2010 21:16
This is for Lion Alum, who has no idea what he is talking about. Sir, the quotes you dismiss as "out of context" are not. Where did you get the information that they were taken out of context? In fact, they are quoted VERBATIM from the Police report, which I have in front of me right now. It is public information, and the incident number is 100225009A if you are interested in checking it out. Contact UPD, they will provide you a copy.
Now let me tell you why this is a big deal, sir. The genesis of this story is the fact that a recruit (i.e. a High School senior) was provided alcohol and drugs by the players "hosting" him on his visit, enough alcohol and drugs that the young man required hospitalization. This incident led to an investigation by the Commerce police department that garnered enough information in 3 days to serve a warrant to search on suspiucion of drug dealing. Marajuana and pills were found during the search that resulted in the arrest of 2 football players. That, Lion Alum, is NEWS, whether you like it or not. And is news that was fairly and accurately reported by the Lion staff. The teams response, clearly with the blessing of their coach, who has the responsibility to lead them and teach them the way to handle adversity as MEN, was to steal over $1,000 worth of newspapers. Newspapers paid for, like the scholarships, equipment, and facilities used by the football team, by fees paid by students who DONT have a full ride to attend this University. Newspapers prepared by a group of students who do their level best, as a group, to produce a product that is in the best tradition of ethical journalism. It sort of seems similar to what a football team does, doesn't it? If the Coach doesn't read the "crap" produced by the team in journalism, perhaps we students shouldn't go watch the crap produced by the football team on Saturdays. Do you get my drift yet?
I will leave you with this thought for the football team, since your Coach hasn't learned it yet: It's hard to be a man. You get knocked on your ass sometimes. Usually, its because you made a mistake, and the world is unforgiving. Sometimes you just get hit by a bus and there's nothing you can do, but usually, in the clarity of reflection, you will realize that you should have looked both ways before you stepped into the street. And when that clarity hits you, being a MAN means standing up, taking your lumps, apologizing for your error, and moving forward with a tough lesson learned. It does NOT mean that you blame the messenger or try to hide your mistake by destroying the efforts and work of others. My advice, such as it is, is to own it and to learn, because that is why we are all here, all members of this same pride, to learn. I wont think any worse of you for your mistakes, if you wont think worse of me for mine.
Good luck to all involved in this mess, and God bless.
Mae Smith
Tue Mar 2 2010 21:16
Wow....when I first read this...I laughed....I am a recent graduate this past summer. While at Commerce I watched athletes get treated differently then regular students. I thought with a new athletic director we would see a change but that didn't happen. Then a new president still didn't happen new football coach....yea right he is openly saying that this was team bonding? So what is the next team bonding experience taking all the administration, faculty, and staffs cars just before 5 pm? Hmmmm its not theft its team bonding.....what a joke...that means that hazzing and all of that fun stuff is just bonding as well? I mean they do that stuff together and in the spirit to become closer? seriously...just a joke!
I too received a letter for money too....guess what...not a dime, nickel, or penny will be going in that direction until the coach and all the football team are properly put through corrective action.

Maybe this is why we can't get more quality student athletes...they don't like to steal or do other "things" to bond...just a thought...

Ryan Paige
Tue Mar 2 2010 20:55
People keep talking about it being a free paper. It's not a free paper. It's a One Copy is Free paper with the whole thing being on the honor system. That's the price stated in the paper whether anyone agrees with that or not.

I don't particularly agree with the Dallas Morning News being fifty cents, but if I decide to take a bunch of them out of the rack without paying, that's not a policy dispute. It's theft plain and simple by the letter of the law.

It's been my experience that people in this part of the country are generally advocates of following the law. If we refuse to hold these students accountable for their admitted violations of the law, aren't we saying that because these guys are athletes, they deserve to be considered above the law?

I'm a graduate of A&M-Commerce (Master of Science in 2006, Master of Business Administration in 2008). In my years at the school, I managed to get through without breaking the law. We should expect the same from these kids (who, I am sure, are probably fine, upstanding individuals the vast majority of the time who have just happened to make a bad choice and engaged in criminal acts).

And, in the end, it all boils down to the fact that if you don't want you name in the paper in a negative light, you should probably not commit a crime. Blaming the messenger for these kids deciding to get involved in drugs (and then theft to try to cover it up) is just trying to deflect blame from their own criminal behavior.

I know one thing for sure, though. I got a letter just today from the Alumni Association asking for money. Until I see that the University is willing to treat these kids who have committed a crime the same as they would any other student who commits a crime, I'm certainly not going to be writing any checks to the University.

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