Charleston Southern University suspended 32 of its football players after they violated National Collegiate Athletic Association rules by spending financial aid intended for textbooks on other items. Sixteen players have already served the one-game suspension, while another 14 sat out Saturday's game against Florida State University. The suspensions for the remaining two players have not yet occurred.
Several of the players protested their suspensions on social media this week, saying the money was spent on other important items -- such as writing utensils, electronics and clothing -- at the campus bookstore, and that they were unaware of any rules being broken. The players said campus bookstore employees suggested they spend the leftover money there "because it disappears if we don't."
In a Facebook post Thursday, Colton Korn, a wide receiver on the team, criticized the timing of the suspensions ahead of what was already going to be a tough game against Florida State. Korn said he believed the punishments were unfair given that other colleges, including some in Charleston Southern's conference, now offer full cost-of-attendance scholarships to athletes, which would include such items as clothing and school supplies. (Florida State won the game, 52 to 8.)
"It pains me to see my brothers from Florida having to call family and friends saying they won't be able to play this weekend, much less the fact that the school told them the day before travel that they will be sitting at home instead, giving barely any time to let family try to get out of financial obligations," Korn said. "As for me, a guy who has been blessed to start 36 games, attend as many other athletic events and school events as time would allow, do countless hours of community service wearing CSU clothes, I'm bewildered at the lack of respect that the university is showing us athletes and student body as a whole. I want to wish my brothers luck who are going into a hostile environment shorthanded."
Colleges that do not offer full cost-of-attendance scholarships can still provide a stipend for purchasing textbooks. NCAA rules do not limit how much money programs can give athletes to spend on textbooks, but the money must be "equal to the actual cost of the books purchased." In a statement Friday, the university said it is working with the NCAA, the Big South Conference and "an outside consultant" to review any additional rule violations. The university first announced it was looking into possible violations last week, saying that volleyball, cross-country and soccer players may also have spent financial aid improperly.
“Obviously it's not the situation you want to go in with a No. 3 or 4 team in the country,” Jamey Chadwell, the football team's head coach, told a local news station Friday. Florida State paid Charleston Southern $475,000 for the game.
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