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Tackling bigger issues off the field

Football head coach Joe Glenn said he takes pride and responsibility as an alumnus in charge of the University of South Dakota’s team.

So when he dismissed two first-year football players for allegedly firing a BB gun last month, he took it personally.

“I love this school — it’s my school and I encourage our kids to be leaders on campus,” Glenn said. “I feel really puny about these two guys and that we missed on them.”

First-years Khalid Kornegay and D’Treal Stone were removed Oct. 8 from the USD football team after Glenn said the two fired BBs at people from a BB gun out a window of Coyote Village. Glenn said one projectile pierced the skin of a female soccer player.

“That’s not someone I want to work with, and they were released from the team,” Glenn said. “They can finish out the semester, but they’re not a part of our team, and I don’t want them anywhere near the Dome.

When contacted, USD Sports Information Kornegay and Stone’s removal from the program and did not comment further on the matter. Numerous football and soccer players declined to comment on the ordeal, stating they were told not to talk about the incident.

Kornegay and Stone were monitored early after the football coaching staff took note of their behavior during the Bridge Program, an intensive academic experience for first-year students.

“They were in the summer program and got on my radar screen early, -and I started counseling and meeting with them,” Glenn said. “Over and over again they kept screwing up, and I got the athletic director involved and dean of students involved, the Bridge people tried to help them. They were just incorrigible.”

Glenn said other incidents consisted of altercations with other teammates in practice and possible theft. He said both Stone and Kornegay signed accountability contracts prior to the BB gun incident.

Shooting the soccer player was the final straw for Glenn, and when confronted, Kornegay and Stone gave conflicting accounts on the matter to the university and athletic department.

“We brought them into the athletic director’s office and sat each of them down with the dean of students, and they went back and forth and first one denied it and then one of them didn’t and then the other told a different story. They just lied and lied about it,” Glenn said.

Despite the actions of Stone and Kornegay, Glenn said he believes his team is a group of character players.

“I hope most of the campus thinks we’re a group of good guys,” he said. “ We do community service projects, give blood, do trash cleanups. We’ve told the Greek organizations we’ll help them out if they need us, and we supported the Strollers group during homecoming.”

Some recent media coverage has suggested a correlation between the violent nature of football and the off-field violence and acts of delinquency committed by players. This includes the impact of repeated concussions on a player’s personality and mental process.

Kate Sibson, a clinical psychology doctoral student at the Forest Institute in Springfield, Mo., disagrees with such an assessment.

“There have been a lot of stories in neurodegenerative disease that a lot of NFL football players have in their brain,” she said. “They’re blaming a lot of their depression and off-the-field poor choices on repeated concussions. The problem is that a lot of stories published in the media have linked concussions to these personality changes and there is not conclusive evidence yet that such a correlation exists.”

Sibson is gathering research for her dissertation, which focuses on concussion testing and athletic cognitive awareness. In her experience with psychology research in regard to athletics, she said she has yet to come across evidence linking violent sports to off-the-field violence.

“I don’t know of any definitive research that exists that states playing a violent sport leads to off the field violence,” she said. “There is an argument that exists that a certain personality is drawn to a violent sport and off the field that personality manifests in violence. That’s a strong argument that can be made from a psychological perspective but it’s more of an alternative argument.”

Sophomore Sam Sheffield said he does not perceive football players, including those at USD, to be a violent group. He was unaware of the BB gun incident but said it did not impact his perception of the team.

“I don’t think it’s a bad group,” Sheffield said. “I don’t interact with them very often. The perception I get from other people is that they can maybe be kind of arrogant and have a big ego but I haven’t noticed it.”

Glenn does not believe the violent nature of football results in a higher likelihood of violence off the field.

“It’s not just football, its soccer, basketball, anything,” he said. “You don’t know what you’re going to get with an 18-year-old kid. I go to the high schools, and I talk to janitors, people in the lunchroom about them, and I talk to their family and friends. We obviously missed on a couple.”

For the most part, Glenn said recruiting usually catches potentially toxic players before they arrive on campus. USD won’t continue to recruit a player if a red flag goes off in the vetting process, no matter the caliber of the recruit.

Last year, the Coyotes targeted a highly touted tackle that had garnered All-Chicago honors, but when the player made an illegal request he was quickly eliminated from the list of prospects.

“When he came here on a visit, he asked if somebody could get him marijuana,” Glenn said.
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“We cut bait on him right away and quit recruiting him.”

The recruit now plays for another Summit League opponent, Glenn said.

As a coach, Glenn said he tries to be fair with players in dealing with discipline. He said certain offenses could be handled internally without complete removal of players. Other actions, like those committed by Stone and Kornegay, are a clear violation that warrant severe action.

“I’m of the mindset if I can, I try to work with them a little bit and deal with it so long as it’s victimless,” he said. “If a kid goes out and partied and got a ticket for underage consumption, to me that’s not as severe as beating somebody up. Stealing from someone, beating someone up that’s a victim crime and I won’t put up with that.”

Glenn said he has also made it clear to the team, even those who are of age, they are not to go to bars or parties during the season.

“They absolutely cannot go out in public and party. That’s always been a rule, wherever I’ve been at,” Glenn said. “

The rule is mostly enforced to ensure focus but Glenn said he is aware of how the team is perceived in the community.

“Once the season is over, if they’re old enough to go downtown and are civil enough and behave themselves they can go to places the other students go,” he said. “If they obey the laws and do things within reason, they’re more than welcome to be an adult. If they’re underage, of course not.”