UCF coach Josh Heupel said the decision to remove four football players from the team following a traffic incident last week was one of the “worst days as a coach,” adding those who were dismissed did not meet the expectations put forth by the program.
“When you’re a part of this program, for all of us, there are a standard and expectations all of us have to meet, and when you don’t meet those, there are consequences to those,” Heupel said during a videoconference with reporters Thursday. “For a few young men, they no longer will be representing us on the field.
“It hurts that some of our players won’t have an opportunity to continue to do what they love to do here and represent us. It hurts coaches and it hurts players. It’s your family and it’s difficult. Not a good day to have those conversations. Worst day as a coach.”
UCF announced the players were removed from the team Wednesday, with a source confirming to the Orlando Sentinel that the four players were defensive end Randy Charlton, defensive tackle Kenny Turnier, linebacker Eric Mitchell and defensive back Antwan Collier.
The move comes a week after UCF police officers pulled over a car on Gemini Boulevard near Libra Drive after officers saw it racing another car and running a red light. Police identified Collier as the driver and Mitchell and defensive backs Aaron Robinson and Brandon Moore as passengers.
Officers reported they smelled cannabis inside the car and while searching the car, they found a backpack on a passenger-side floorboard with a “loaded AR 15 semi-automatic rifle with a magazine inserted” and a “Glock pistol with an extended magazine.”
Mitchell had a valid concealed carry license and the firearms were placed in the trunk of the car. Collier said he had a third gun under the driver’s seat. He told the police he also had a concealed carry license, but officers could not confirm it existed. Collier also told police he had an identification card and intended to get his driver’s license, but he did not have one with him.
Officers arrested Collier and charged him with driving without a license and carrying a firearm without a license. Collier appeared to be polite and confused while he was being detained, breaking down in tears as officers explained why they had to arrest him.
During Collier’s arrest, a group of five people campus police identified as football players walked up to the scene and shouted obscene insults at police. The passengers in the car were calm and urged police not to arrest Collier, but some lost their composure and joined others cursing at police as they finished taking Collier into custody.
Some of the players who walked up to the scene of arrest shouted insults that included a variation of the term “pig” and expletives, with one person suggesting, “I bet they’ll try to put some coke up in there. You know how these pigs do,” according to a supplemental incident report.
The players noted Collier was a member of the UCF football team and university police were “stupid” and “dumb as hell” for detaining him.
Heupel wouldn’t say whether the move was made because of the traffic incident or there were other internal issues that contributed to the players’ dismissals.
“I’m not going to get into specifics with how the decision was made,” Heupel said. “At the end of the day, you’ve had an opportunity to see the video. There’s a way we need to represent our program and our university, and that’s why the decision was made.”
Heupel also refused to discuss who else was involved in the decision, but he did meet with all players involved with the incident as well as with the entire team.
“I still think our kids do a great job off the field being engaged in the community,” Heupel said. “Our kids have behaved in a great way since I’ve been here, for the most part. At the end of the day, some kids made a mistake and they will be better for it and we’ll be better for it too.”
Charlton and Turnier took to social media to apologize Wednesday morning.
“I live my life as a person who cares for those I love, and I believe that night was a night that truly showed that I am that type of person that will fight for those who I love,” Turnier wrote in a statement on Twitter under the headline, “The Truth Behind ‘0.’” “The words I used were out of pure anger and hurt to see my brother in handcuffs instead of putting on a helmet.
“I also want to apologize to the UCF campus police officers for my language and my aggression. I know it wasn’t right by the standards that I am supposed to uphold as a student athlete here at UCF, so I am apologizing for my actions and my words from that night.”
“I believed my actions that transpired that night were actions of a concerned brother under the team law ‘One Team, One Heart Beat,’” Charlton said. “I know some words that was used was not acceptable and not up to the team standard held for me, so I will take full responsibility for those things and I will apologize for that.”
UCF has a bye this week and the team was back on the practice field the past couple of days before preparing to host Temple on Nov. 14.
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