It's been a long, sobering season for Southern Miss fans, and this may be the worst week yet. On Saturday, the Golden Eagles concluded the first winless season in school history with its twelfth consecutive loss, a 42-24 flop at Memphis. On Tuesday, the Golden Eagles fired their head coach, Ellis Johnson, after just one year on the job. And now the latest misfortune: On Wednesday, the most promising young player on the team has been suspended from school after being charged with aggravated assault in an apparent fight.
According to Hattiesburg police, freshman quarterback Anthony Alford was one of several people – students and non-students – involved in an altercation on the Southern Miss campus on Wednesday morning, one of whom reportedly brandished a gun. From the Biloxi, Miss. Sun Herald:
The incident occurred near the campus' Walker Science Building about 11 a.m. Wednesday, when University Police responded to a call of an altercation involving about four individuals, including two nonstudents. While responding to the incident, a University police officer observed [Korey] Hathorn near the scene in possession of a handgun. Hathorn, who is believed to be a part of the fight, was taken into custody without incident and his weapon recovered.
After further investigation, officers also arrested Alford, who is believed to be involved in the fight. Both students have received interim suspensions from the University until such time as they can participate in the student judicial process.
University Police report that the investigation will continue and more arrests are expected.
In a statement, USM athletic director Jeff Hammond said his department is "aware of the circumstances" regarding Alford's arrest and "fully support[s] our university's prescribed due process." There is no formal time table for a decision on his reinstatement.
Alford, a two-sport star at nearby Petal High, arrived on campus in August as one of the most touted recruits in school history, having been selected as an Army All-American in football and a third-round draft pick by the Toronto Blue Jays in the MLB Draft. (He signed a contract with the Blue Jays in June, worked with a minor league affiliate prior to football season and remains a member of the organization.) As a true freshman, Alford was the closest thing USM had to a regular starter under center, starting five games and appearing in four more with two touchdown passes, four interceptions and a team-high 993 yards of total offense. He also suffered through multiple knee and ankle injuries that kept him out of three games and limited him in several others.
A rash of injuries at the position eventually forced the Golden Eagles to field four different starting quarterbacks over the course of the season, with predictable results: The offense ranked dead last in Conference USA and among the worst in the nation in scoring, passing efficiency and turnover margin.
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Photo via US Presswire.