USF RB Mike Ford suspended two games
USF junior running back Mike Ford has been suspended for the first two games of the Bulls' season, missing games against Wofford and Western Kentucky for an unspecified violation of team rules.
USF announced the news Monday morning, but declined to elaborate on why Ford won't be playing, though it may be related to a harsher policy on unexcused absences implemented by USF's athletic department this summer.
With junior running back Jamar Taylor sidelined for an unknown period with a knee injury, the Bulls will likely open the season without two of their most experienced running backs.
USF coach Jim Leavitt, speaking Saturday about other backs who would step up in Taylor's absence, first mentioned senior Mo Plancher, then junior Aston Samuels and freshman Lindsey Lamar before he mentioned Ford, who has gained the most yards (1,052) of USF's running backs over the past two seasons. Taylor, who injured his left knee and was on crutches Saturday, has rushed for 447 in his two seasons; Plancher is next with 339 yards.
Ford has been suspended before -- he was held out of a win against Florida Atlantic in October 2007 after missing classes as a freshman. USF implemented a harsher policy on unexcused absences this summer, and a player who had five unexcused absences during summer classes would also be subject to a two-game suspension. Under the same penalty, the player would not be allowed at the first practice of the fall semester.
Ford missed USF's first two practices two weeks ago during the final week of summer classes, and Leavitt said his absence from practice was because he was attending class.
"He's got to get his schoolwork done, or it doesn't much matter out here," Leavitt said about Ford that day. "Those guys have to get their priorities (in order)."
The Bulls will be heavy favorites in both games -- Wofford is a I-AA program and Western Kentucky just joined the I-A ranks this season -- but in three days, running back has gone from one of USF's deepest positions to one of of its murkiest, as it's still unknown when or if Taylor will return this season, and Ford's situation now seems more questionable.
Ford's suspension isn't likely related to any arrest -- Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show he has not been arrested in the state since July 2007, when he turned himself in to Sarasota police after missing a court date for driving without a registration or valid license.
Without knowing that it applies here, the specific length of the suspension also would match the penalty for a second violation of the athletic department's substance abuse policy. As of 2007, the policy carried no suspension for an initial positive drug test, then a suspension for 20 percent of the regular season for a second offense or a failure to follow treatment program guidelines following a first positive test. A third offense results in dismissal from the program. Here's a story we wrote about the substance abuse policy in 2006.