Winston-Salem State quarterback Rudy Johnson was expected to lead his team on the field Saturday as it attempts to win its third consecutive Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (CIAA) football championship. But after an alleged incident at a celebratory banquet Friday, Johnson won't be able to play, and neither will anyone else.
The CIAA on Friday night canceled the game between Winston-Salem State and Virginia State in the wake of the incident, as well as the conference's volleyball championships that also were to be held in Winston-Salem, N.C., this weekend. The move comes after Johnson was allegedly beaten by a group of Virginia State football players in a bathroom of a WSSU campus building during the CIAA football banquet.
The Winston-Salem Journal obtained an arrest warrant from Winston-Salem State campus police for Lamont Britt, a Virginia State sophomore running back, who was charged with misdemeanor assault inflicting serious injury. According to the Journal, Britt is being held in Forsyth County (N.C.) Jail with bond set at $7,500 and has a date in Forsyth District Court set for Dec. 9.
A voice message and email from USA TODAY Sports to campus police lieutenant and crime prevention officer Henry Gray were not returned.
The university's associate athletics director for media relations, Kevin Manns, confirmed to USA TODAY Sports that Johnson had been treated and released from a nearby hospital. According to the arrest warrant, Johnson had been hit in the face and head and suffered a head laceration and swollen eye.
In announcing the cancellation, CIAA commissioner Jacquie Carpenter said in a statement, "Our singular focus is on the safety and security of the CIAA's student-athletes and those who follow them. It is important that everyone involved in the CIAA embody our mission every day by acting as upstanding individuals on and off the field. We must work together to hold each other to higher standards of responsible judgment and conduct because we must demand that if we are to succeed.
"We did not make this decision lightly, as its impact is far and wide - affecting our student-athletes, alumni, fans, sponsors and more. But the CIAA has long had policies to encourage responsible behavior, and must consider what is necessary to assure days like today are not repeated, ever."
Winston-Salem State Chancellor Donald Reaves said in a statement Friday night, "I am saddened to report that at today's CIAA pre-championship game luncheon held at the Anderson Center of the WSSU campus that our starting quarterback, Rudy Johnson, was viciously beaten by one or more members of the Virginia State football team.
"There is no excuse for the behavior of the Virginia State players. One suspect has admitted to his role in the attack and has been arrest on criminal assault charges. The University Police Department is attempting to identify the other VSU players who were involved. Today's event was supposed to be a celebration for both teams and for all the players who were being recognized for an outstanding season. The actions from the Virginia State players certainly changed the outcome for everyone."
On its university web site, Virginia State released a statement reading, "Virginia State University is aware of an incident involving student athletes from Winston Salem State and Virginia State Universities. VSU officials are fully cooperating with the CIAA in their investigation, and as a result, will not be able to comment any further."
Johnson, a junior from San Diego who transferred from Texas Southern earlier this year, has led his team to a 9-1 record and was named the CIAA's first-team quarterback on Wednesday. Winston-Salem State has been ranked as a leading contender for the 2013 NCAA Division II football playoffs after reaching the championship game in 2012.