Utah State University football head coach Gary Andersen had harsh words Thursday about reports that three of his players were cited for suspected marijuana use in the week leading up to the team’s appearance in a college bowl game.
In a pregame press conference for Friday night’s Frisco Bowl, Andersen questioned the accuracy of news reports on the citations, which involved three players allegedly testing positive for marijuana after being contacted by police responding to an off-campus apartment where someone reported smelling the drug.
“So I just hope at the end of this whole thing, that those people can have the same miserable day that those kids had when these articles came out,” Andersen said. “I’ll work hard, if I can, to make sure those days are miserable for those people. They won’t be as miserable. But it’s highly irritating to put kids in this setting, in this situation at a bowl game, and to have to have them go through those hours and those times just because somebody told somebody something that obviously wasn’t completely correct.”
It was not clear which of many news articles and broadcast reports about the case Andersen was referring to, or if his complaint was also directed at Logan City Police, who handled the call at Millennial Towers west of campus and responded to news media inquiries about what was alleged to have happened.
“I’m not saying that about the guy who wrote the article, he got the information somehow,” Andersen said. “But obviously there was some inaccurate pieces to that article.”
Contacted on Thursday by The Herald Journal, USU Athletics spokesman Doug Hoffman declined comment.
In response to media reports of the marijuana citations, the university stated it is aware of the citations and it will follow existing Athletics and student conduct procedures.
An attorney for one of the players told The Salt Lake Tribune that contrary to initial reports, the player “was not arrested for any offense, but simply cited by the officer for a low-level misdemeanor possession charge” and that the player claims innocence and expects to be exonerated.
Assistant Logan Police Chief Jeff Simmons told the newspaper on Thursday he was aware of Andersen’s comments but wasn’t sure if his department was one of the subjects.
“I don’t know what he is referring to, whether it’s something we said or someone else has done,” Simmons said. “But if he calls or if he asks, we’d be more than happy to show him the video and what we have.”
Simmons was quoted widely in news reports about the situation and said he did see some misrepresentations of the information he released.
“There was one report that suggested they were smoking marijuana. No, we never found them smoking marijuana.” Simmons said. “We did not find product or marijuana in the apartment while we were there. We didn’t find any paraphernalia. What our citations were based off of were warrants that had been sought after and approved by a judge to test their urine, and we did that. They tested positive.”
The Herald Journal did not report on the charges against the athletes and does not deem marijuana a serious enough crime to warrant negative publicity for individuals in the community in most cases.
It is classified as a Class B misdemeanor under Utah law, which Simmons describes as “a minor, low-level offense.” The NCAA includes cannabinoids and specifically marijuana on its list of banned substances, but in light of several states legalizing cannabinoid use to one degree or another, many schools are relaxing their enforcement policies.
“It was spotlighted because they’re football players and they have a big game coming up,” Simmons said, speculating about why the story gained so much attention.