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Gators QB Treon Harris accused of sexual battery, suspended indefinitely

Gators quarterback Treon Harris runs with the ball in the second half of Saturday's game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. [Getty Images]
Gators quarterback Treon Harris runs with the ball in the second half of Saturday's game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. [Getty Images]
Published Oct. 7, 2014

GAINESVILLE — On the day that many anticipated Treon Harris might be named the Florida Gators starting quarterback for this week, the freshman from Miami on Monday was suspended indefinitely from the team amid allegations of sexual battery involving a female UF student.

The alleged assault occurred early Sunday morning in the Springs Residence Hall on the UF campus, a few hours after Harris led the Gators to a 10-9 victory over Tennessee in Knoxville on Saturday.

No charges have been filed, and the case is under investigation.

The University Police Department is the lead investigator and has asked the Gainesville Police Department to assist with the collection and analysis of forensic evidence, Florida officials said.

"There has been no arrest and I'm hopeful that when the investigation is completed, there will be no arrest," Harris' attorney, Huntley Johnson, said Monday afternoon. " 'Hopeful' is the key word. And we are cooperating with the investigation."

Florida coach Will Muschamp abruptly canceled his weekly news conference Monday morning and by early afternoon Florida president Bernie Machen — not the athletic department — publicly addressed the situation.

"We have no tolerance for sexual assault on our campus," Machen said in a statement. "The university is committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment for every member of the UF community. We must strive to protect all of our students from sexual harassment and assault, and do everything in our power to promote a safe learning environment."

The immediate suspension and swift public reaction to the allegations by university officials is indicative of the heightened national awareness of violence against women brought on by the publicizing of cases of domestic battery and abuse among prominent National Football League players in the past several months, and more stringent federal guidelines governing sexual assault and harassment on America's college campuses.

Harris' situation also calls to mind that of Florida State University Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who in January 2013 was accused of sexual assault. Winston was never arrested or charged, but the case drew national attention, partly because it was not made public until November. Florida State is conducting a Title IX investigation into whether Winston broke the school's code of conduct policy.

Florida is also obligated to initiate its own investigation, and the university said Monday that along with UPD and GPD, the University of Florida's student affairs office will lead an independent review as part of its code of conduct policies.

In 2011, colleges and universities were reminded in a memo from the federal government of their obligation to this matter under the 1972 Title IX act. Schools are required by law to investigate cases of sexual assault or harassment if they know, or should have known, that the allegation may have occurred.

More than 70 schools nationwide are being investigated by the federal government over their handling of sexual abuse and harassment allegations.

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In its statement, Florida officials also said: "As this process unfolds and is resolved, UF is committed to addressing this serious matter with integrity, fairness and compassion."

The suspension comes after Harris garnered the spotlight Saturday when he took over for starter Jeff Driskel and engineered a fourth-quarter victory.

The Gators will host Louisiana State University on Saturday night — a game Harris was expected to have a key role in, if not start. Instead, his college football career, and freedom, could be in jeopardy.

Harris led Miami Booker T. Washington to two state championships. He was selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl coached by his father, Tim Harris. He threw for more than 4,700 yards combined in his junior and senior years, and ran for more than 1,300 yards in those two years.

Contact Antonya English at aenglish@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3389. Follow @TBTimes_Gators.


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