Were the Tennessee football and basketball players that frequented Bar Knoxville receiving extra benefits from the food-and-drink establishment? The NCAA is probably going to want to know.
Sandy Morton, who co-owns the popular nightclub on “The Strip” in downtown Knoxville with her husband, admits in an on-camera interview that she “gives VIP status to the football players” and “always tries to cater to the UT guys.” Morton said “VIP status” means they pay no cover at the door.
The NCAA defines an extra benefit as any special gift or arrangement provided to an enrolled student-athlete or a student-athlete’s relative or friend which is not available to the general student body of that institution.
That special treatment came back to bite Bar Knoxville as an early-Friday-morning melee shut down her business, left two police officers hospitalized and resulted in at least two Tennessee football players being arrested.
“It bothers me that they think they can do anything they want and get away with it,” said Morton, who estimates seven to 10 football players were involved in Friday’s incident.
“All the sudden they just started beating up on a customer,” Morton said. “Security intervened and got it outside and they proceeded to beat up an off-duty police officer. . . . It was total chaos.”
Arrested after the 1:50 a.m. brawl were two Georgia residents who are Tennessee football players. Sophomore safety Darren Myles, a graduate of Atlanta’s Carver High School, was charged with assault, evading arrest and resisting arrest. Freshman wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Both were released on bail late Friday morning and were rushed away in a black sedan with an orange Tennessee “T” on the side.
This was the second arrest in less than three months for Myles. He dismissed from the team late Friday afternoon by coach Derek Dooley.
Two other football players — sophomore defensive tackle Marlon Walls and sophomore linebacker Greg King — were indefinitely suspended. There was no mention of internal discipline for Rogers in a statement from Dooley released Friday evening.
“It is a privilege, not a right, to be a member of the University of Tennessee football team,” Dooley said in the statement. “The most important responsibility of that privilege is to properly represent this institution and our supporters on and off the field. I am disappointed and in many ways embarrassed by the poor judgment displayed on many fronts by several members of our football team last night. Although we are still gathering all the facts and some legal proceedings will follow, we have taken some initial levels of discipline resulting from my conversations with the student-athletes who were present.”
Police spokesman Darrell DeBusk told The Associated Press that Robert Capouellez, an off-duty Knoxville officer who tried to break up the fight, was knocked unconscious and being treated for a head injury. DeBusk said the officer was hit in the head, knocked to the ground and then kicked several times.
It is not known who actually struck the officer. However, Morton said, “they arrested the people that were causing the problems.”
The victim inside the bar left the scene and has not been found, Morton said.
As many as six UT players were being questioned about the incident, according to The Knoxville News-Sentinel. DeBusk told the newspaper additional charges could be filed as the investigation continues.
Rogers (6-3, 215), a 2009 AJC Super 11 selection and the top-ranked player in the AJC Fab 50, is considered the crown jewel of the Vols’ first recruiting class under Derek Dooley. He was committed to Georgia for eight months before switching to UT on the eve of national signing day.
Asked to comment on Rogers’ arrest, Calhoun coach Hal Lamb said he’d “rather not” but did add that he is “very concerned and saddened.” Rogers said the state record for receiving yards in a season with Calhoun last year with more than 1,600.
It seems like Rogers has been having a good time ever since he signed with Tennessee. I chose not to do it but DeadSpin.com didn’t mind running some Facebook photos of Rogers enjoying some beverages with some friends.
Kell athlete Brian Randolph is one of three Georgia high school players currently committed to sign with the Vols in the 2011 recruiting class. “Of course it’s not too good but I don’t know enough about it to say much,” he said of the players’ arrests.
The incident represents the first major disciplinary challenge for Dooley . He was out of town Friday and could not be reached for comment. The school is expected to release a statement later today.
In May, pledged to take a hard line on discipline after Myles’ arrested for public intoxication, disorderly conduct,and resisting arrest the night after Tennessee’s Orange and White spring football game. The Vols have had an embarrassing string of serious arrests — including two players for armed robbery — that reached a nadir under previous coach Lane Kiffin.
“I think it’s a combination of discipline and education,” Dooley said after Myles’ May arrest. “[Myles] made a bad decision, and I involved the entire team in that because it’s very important to our team that we change our culture and how people view us.”
Police are still sorting out details and considering additional charges.
HERE IS A LINK to the video of the bar owner talking about the incident and the bar’s relationship with UT athletes.
Here is the original news release from police:
This morning at approximately 1:50 a.m., officers responded to Bar Knoxville located at 1820 Cumberland Avenue after being notified that an off-duty police officer had been assaulted. When officers arrived on the scene they located Knoxville Police Department Officer Robert Capouellez lying on the ground unconscious. Officer Capouellez was transported to UT Medical Center for treatment of a head wound. Another individual from inside Bar Knoxville who had been assaulted by multiple individuals was also transported to UT Medical Center with numerous injuries. I will release the name of that victim once his next of kin has been notified.
According to multiple witnesses, the male victim from inside the bar was involved in an altercation with another patron when several additional patrons jumped into the fight. Employees of the bar intervened and push the fight outside onto the sidewalk. Officer Capouellez intervened in an attempt to stop the fight when he was attacked. According to witnesses, the officer was hit in the head and knocked to the ground. Once on the ground the suspect kicked the officer several times before fleeing the scene. Six individuals were identified as potential suspects. These individuals were located and detained for questioning. It appears several of these individuals may be associated with the University of Tennessee football program. One of the suspects has been turned over to UTPD who will file charges after one of their officers was assaulted while attempting to take this individual into custody. You will need to contact UTPD for additional information regarding this arrest and potential charges. We have charged Darick Rogers (DOB 6-18-91) with Disorderly Conduct and Resisting Arrest
Several witnesses as well as potential suspects are still being interviewed. I will release additional information as the investigation moves forward. I will not release any names of individuals detained until they are charged.