GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida coach Will Muschamp is dealing with two off-the-field issues, a sexual assault allegation he called a “very serious charge” and a fight between teammates he labeled a “tremendous misunderstanding.”
“You handle things in life and you move forward,” Muschamp said Wednesday. “That’s what we’re going to do.”
Muschamp made his first public comments since it was announced Monday that freshman quarterback Treon Harris had been suspended indefinitely while authorities investigate sexual assault allegations made against him.
“It’s a very serious charge and there’s been no change in his status,” Muschamp said. “I feel very comfortable in how we’ve approached this situation.”
The program banned Harris from all team activities during the investigation. The school said a female student accused Harris of sexually assaulting her around 3 a.m. Sunday — hours after he helped Florida (3-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) rally to beat Tennessee 10-9 in Knoxville.
The Associated Press does not identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault.
The university released an 18-page incident report Wednesday afternoon, but the majority of it was redacted, with officials citing privacy laws. One of the few parts that were viewable provided Harris’ height, weight, hair color, eye color and date of birth.
University of Florida spokeswoman Janine Sykes also outlined the steps for the school’s student code of conduct review, which is required under a Department of Education Title IX federal statute. Even if Harris faces no criminal charges, he could still face student code of conduct sanctions.
Muschamp declined to answer several questions about the Harris case, including when he found out about the incident, what he told the team and whether he thought Harris has any character flaws.
He said he felt having a news conference was “a little insensitive” considering the circumstances, but he expressed a need to “move forward and manage your football team.”
He later added that it’s always tough seeing his players deal with adversity.
“It always hurts anytime a young man goes through a tough situation,” Muschamp said. “I’m not referring to that situation individually, but anytime you see our players hurt, you see a young man hurt, you spend a lot of time with him, it’s hard, it’s very hard. You get emotionally attached in all situations, absolutely.”
Harris might have been named the starter Monday, although Muschamp said Wednesday that struggling fourth-year junior Jeff Driskel would have played against the LSU Tigers (4-2, 0-2). Now, Driskel will start and highly touted freshman Will Grier will compete with Skyler Mornhinweg for the backup role.
Driskel, who has started 19 games over the last three seasons, has completed 48 percent of his passes in conference play for 447 yards, with four touchdowns and six interceptions. He was benched late in the third quarter against Tennessee in favor of Harris, who led the Gators to 10 points in his first two drives.
“Jeff’s a tough young man,” Muschamp said. “He’s resilient. I met with him Sunday and I talked to him after the game and talked to him Monday. He understands. He needs to play better. He takes full responsibility to be the quarterback at the University of Florida. The way he has handled this has been outstanding.”
Muschamp laughed off his other off-the-field situation, even taking a shot at the media by saying, “I tell you what, we’ve made a big one out of this.”
Mornhinweg, son of New York Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, and teammate Gerald Willis got into a fight over a pair of missing cleats Monday night.
According to police, Mornhinweg sustained “small lacerations on his lower lip” and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. Willis had a “small cut on his chin” but did not get medical attention.
Muschamp said Willis couldn’t find his cleats on an air-drying system, grabbed a pair labeled No. 17 that he thought belonged to close friend and fellow defensive lineman Jordan Sherit. It turned out those belong to Mornhinweg, who changed his number from 17 to 8 this season.
Mornhinweg approached Willis about, and things escalated and ended with punches exchanged.
“Nobody stole anything,” Muschamp said. “If anybody stole anything, they wouldn’t be on this football team anymore, I can assure you of that. We had a disagreement, and I wish it would have been handled a little bit differently.
“Me and my brother, Mike, used to fight all the time. It happened in our family. Maybe our family is really different from everybody else’s. Me and my brother, Pat, I never won. Took swings. Never won. That’s the way it goes. Families, it’s what happens.”
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