Morriss: 'I'm proud of my players for doing that'
Head coach advocates football team stealing newspapers
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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