MURFREESBORO – This much is clear: Dwight Dasher will not start in Middle Tennessee State University’s season opener Thursday against Minnesota.
What is still cloudy, however, is when the Blue Raiders’ senior standout quarterback will take the field this season.
MTSU athletics director Chris Massaro announced Friday the university has declared Dasher ineligible for competition due to a violation of the NCAA amateurism legislation. The decision was made after it was found Dasher received a $1,500 loan recently.
According to Massaro, the penalty for this violation is a “30 percent reduction in the number of games (12) in a season, which can be mitigated either higher or lower.” Therefore, Dasher could miss a minimum of three games. But Massaro and MTSU planned to send a letter to the NCAA later in the day to petition for Dasher’s reinstatement.
“I am not at liberty (to say when Dasher will play) because the NCAA has obviously not had a chance to review this,” Massaro said. “I want to be fair to all parties involved. They need a chance to review the information that we send before we have any kind of discussion on what the penalty structure will be.”
Dasher, who last month was named the Sun Belt Conference’s preseason offensive player of the year, is still practicing with the team but was not available for comment at the press conference where the suspension was announced.
When asked how Dasher was doing, coach Rick Stockstill said “really good.”
“He is disappointed obviously,” Stockstill said. “But his teammates and coaches have rallied behind him. He is humbled in this situation. He knows he made a mistake.”
The university hired a consultant from The Compliance Group, out of Kansas City, Mo., to provide “third party analysis of the assembled information and anticipated processes,” according to Massaro. He said the university paid for those services with money from the school’s athletic foundation – the Blue Raider Athletic Association.
“Because of its profile, to me, we needed a neutral pair of eyes – kind of an impartial judge,” Massaro said. “We don’t want to turn our head the other way and to have an area that maybe we should have gone into and asked a little bit more.”
Reportedly, the consultant talked to the 80-year-old resident of Alvin C. York Veterans Hospital in Murfreesboro, who loaned Dasher the money to play in a poker game.
As of Friday morning, Dasher had not paid the loan back. But Massaro said “I think Dwight’s full intent was to pay it by Aug. 27 so we are very hopeful that it will be paid (Friday).”
It also was reported that Dasher allegedly stole checks from teammate, Colin Boss, to use as collateral for the loan. Stockstill said he did not feel comfortable commenting on that situation until “everything is resolved.”
“We will answer that in time,” he said.
Dasher’s suspension could not come at a more inopportune time.
The Blue Raiders became the first Sun Belt Conference team to win 10 games when they went 10-3 with victories in their final seven contests of 2009. They capped the season with a victory over Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl.
Their 2010 opener at Floyd Stadium will be broadcast live on ESPN.
As a junior last season, Dasher became just the fourth player in NCAA history to throw for 2,500 yards and rush for more than a 1,000 yards in a single season. He capped the year off by being setting a New Orleans Bowl record with 201 rushing yards as he scored a total of four touchdowns - earning MVP honors.
“Dwight is a really, really good player. We are a good team with Dwight but we’re not all Dwight,” Stockstill said. “Our team believes that. I really believe they do and I don’t think it is lip service.”
Either sophomore Logan Kilgore or junior Jeff Murphy will take over the quarterback duties while Dasher serves his suspension. Stockstill said he “had a pretty good idea” who is starter will be but is not ready to make that announcement.
If the three-game suspension holds up, Dasher’s first game would be on Sept. 25, when the Blue Raiders begin conference play at Louisiana-Lafayette.