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Football: Harris awaiting word on QB

Pitt coach seeks information before ruling on Rutherford

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

By Paul Zeise, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

The investigation into an incident involving Pitt quarterback Rod Rutherford and a 19-year-old North Side woman outside a Station Square bar and grill continued yesterday, but no charges have been filed.

Pitt coach Walt Harris reacts to a question about starting quarterback Rod Rutherford. (Doreena Balestreire, Post-Gazette)


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Pitt Coach Walt Harris said he also is looking into the situation and won't suspend or discipline Rutherford until the investigation is complete.

"I've heard Rod's side of the story and I am waiting to find out everything," Harris said at his weekly news conference. "Until I hear everything that I'm satisfied with knowing in terms of the information, I am not going to do anything. We are in the process of gathering information. We're not done. When we're done, we'll give you our perception."

Despite his repeated attempts to change the subject to the Panthers' upcoming game against Kent State, Harris was repeatedly questioned about the situation. He was asked about team rules regarding curfews and was pressed about what it would take for him to make a decision on suspending Rutherford.

But he would not budge and became testy when the questioning continued.

"I'm not interested in talking anymore about it," he said. "I'm more interested in talking about Kent State. I'm not interested in any more communication about it because to me, until I get all the facts I just don't want to comment on it anymore."

Harris said that the past two days have been "tough" on Rutherford and that the incident has become a "distraction" for the team. He also said he isn't going to rush to make a decision on disciplining Rutherford because he "believes in Rod."

The woman accused Rutherford of grabbing her arm, trying to pull her out of a car and kicking the window out of the car during a dispute between the two early Monday morning in the parking lot behind Philthy McNasty's in Station Square. She said the dispute began when she resisted his advances toward her in the car.

Rutherford maintains she provoked the incident when she threw a glass at him in the parking lot.

Rutherford's attorney, James Wymard, said police have indicated to him they will interview more witnesses today and probably tomorrow before deciding on whether to charge Rutherford. He also said both parties are working to resolve the dispute.

Even if Rutherford is charged, he is likely to face misdemeanor charges of criminal mischief and simple assault. If convicted, he probably would have to pay a fine and could be placed on probation.

Rutherford, along with other Pitt football and basketball players, was at Philthy McNasty's for "The Labor Day Jump Off," an event that was open to the public but geared toward college students returning to school. It was promoted by Rated R Entertainment and CMP Productions, which organize many events and parties around the city.

Rutherford, along with Pitt basketball players Mark McCarroll, Julius Page and Chevon Troutman, and West Virginia quarterback Rasheed Marshall, a Brashear graduate, were listed on promotional flyers for the event as "special invited guests."

A spokesman for Rated R Entertainment, who wished to remain anonymous, said special invited guests are not paid for their appearances and aren't obligated to attend, as was the case with Marshall, who was a no-show.

The spokesman attended the event and said he spoke with Rutherford. He said he saw Rutherford several times throughout the night, describing his demeanor as calm and saying he was just enjoying himself. The spokesman said he didn't see Rutherford drinking alcohol or arguing with anyone and was surprised when he heard about the incident.

Nancy Sukits, director of event planning and marketing for Philthy McNasty's, said she also believes the dispute did not carry over from anything that happened inside the establishment. She said the incident took place at about 2:45 a.m., long after the bar closed.

"We had a good crowd here and everyone seemed to have a good time," said Sukits, who also was at the event. "We have 15 security guards here and four off-duty police officers. If anything goes on, we know about it and that's why we were all so surprised when we saw the story on the news the next day.

"Everyone was very well behaved inside the building, so the whole thing must have started after they had already left."

If Rutherford is suspended, Harris would likely start sophomore Tyler Palko, even though he named freshman Luke Getsy the backup quarterback. Palko is probably more ready to play than Getsy, but Getsy used his redshirt last season.

Harris is hoping to redshirt Palko, who was the backup last year, so he can have three years of eligibility remaining after this season. If he plays in a game, Palko would lose his redshirt and have only two years of eligibility left.


Paul Zeise can be reached at pzeise@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1720.

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