By Ryan Suchomel and Lee Hermiston
Iowa City Press-Citizen ©
Running back Marcus Coker, who was suspended for the Insight Bowl, won’t return to the Iowa football team.
The school announced Tuesday that Coker asked for, and was given, a release from his scholarship.
Coker, a sophomore, leaves three weeks after being suspended from the Insight Bowl for “disciplinary reasons” and a little more than 10 weeks since being named in an incident report for assault.
According to an Iowa City Police Department incident report from Oct. 28, 2011, obtained by an open records request, Coker was the subject of an assault investigation initiated that day.
According to that report, a woman reported to police that she was the victim of an assault at Coker’s residence. The alleged assault took place sometime between 1:15-1:30 a.m. on Oct. 28.
The circumstances surrounding the assault are not detailed in the report, but it does note that the responding officer was dispatched to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics about a sexual assault.
Iowa City Police Lt. Doug Hart said Coker was investigated for assault. However, after conferring with the Johnson County Attorney’s Office, prosecution was not pursued. Hart said the alleged victim also did not want to prosecute.
Hart said, as is often the case with alleged criminal activity involving an athlete, the Iowa athletic department was informed of the investigation. Hart said he did not know who was contacted or precisely when they were contacted, but that the university would have been informed shortly after the alleged incident.
The Dec. 20 news release announcing Coker’s suspension stated: “The issue involves University of Iowa policies, and has resulted in Coker being in violation of the UI Student-Athlete Code of Conduct.”
Iowa athletic director Gary Barta did not expand on the reason why Coker asked for his release Tuesday morning.
“I’m not going to go into details,” Barta said about an hour before the Iowa men’s basketball game Tuesday in East Lansing, Mich. “He withdrew (from classes) and asked for a release and that’s where we’re at.”
Barta was asked if Coker was ever involved in a legal investigation.
“I’m not going to comment on anything beyond what I’ve done so far,” Barta said.
Iowa City attorney Leon Spies released a statement after the city fulfilled the Iowa City Press-Citizen’s records request noting that Coker was aware of the request and the city’s response.
“He also knows that no charges have been brought against him and that he is innocent of any criminal wrongdoing,” Spies said.
When asked Friday if the assault investigation and Coker’s suspension were linked, Spies declined to comment.
Efforts have been made to reach Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz after the incident report was released.
Iowa’s sports information department issued a brief reply Friday noting the university was aware of the Iowa City Police Department’s investigation and that the university followed “prescribed measures in place for reviewing and acting on any alleged violations of the Code of Student Life.”
Barta said Tuesday that Coker remained suspended up until his release.
“His status hasn’t changed,” Barta said. “And that’s not unusual because classes hadn’t resumed nor had football activities.”
Barta said he did not know if plans had been to reinstate Coker to the team when classes resumed Jan. 17 or at a future date.
“I don’t know that I knew what to expect other than I knew that his status at some point would be addressed one way or another,” Barta said.
Coker ran for 1,384 yards during his sophomore season, the fourth-best total in Hawkeye history. He ranked second in the Big Ten Conference in rushing and earned second-team all-Big Ten honors.
Iowa associate athletic director Mary Curtis said that, like any scholarship release, Coker is eligible to “seek out any institution.” However, he must sit out a full academic year if he transfers to another FBS program.
Asked Tuesday if Coker would have a restricted release, Barta said. “We haven’t gotten to that point yet. I’ve been here (for the Iowa-Michigan State basketball game). We’ll grant it. I don’t know what form that will take.”
Asked if Coker would be restricted from attending another Big Ten school, Barta said, “I’m not going to speculate.”
Barta said he spoke to Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz on Tuesday.
“I’m not going to go into details,” Barta said. “He asked for a release and that’s where we’re at.”
One possible landing spot could be at Division II Gannon University in Erie, Pa. Coker’s former DeMatha Catholic teammate and classmate Daniel Tapscott is a quarterback there.
“He was asking me if (Gannon) was a good program, so I told him about it,” Tapscott said. “It would be nice to have him around.”
Tapscott said he has talked to Coker since his suspension.
“He was really upset that he missed out on a big opportunity,” Tapscott said. “He knows he could’ve helped his team, and felt he let his teammates down. That’s what was important to him.”
If Coker transferred to Gannon he would be eligible to play this fall. He could then transfer back to a Division I program or be eligible to enter the 2013 NFL draft.
Coker is the second tailback to leave after the season. Mika’il McCall also asked to be released. The previous season, Brandon Wegher, Adam Robinson and Jewel Hampton left.
“I’m concerned whenever somebody comes into our program and then, for whatever reason, leaves before they graduate,” Barta said. “That’s no different than any other situation whether it’s Marcus or anyone else.”
The fact that it’s a run of running backs only magnifies the situation.
“Obviously we’ve had several running backs that haven’t finished their career at Iowa,” Barta said.
“That’s a concern. It’s probably more public when it’s a position like the running back. But any time a student-athlete — and I have 700 of them — leaves the program, it’s a concern.”
Rick Brown and Pat Harty contributed to this report.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football