Policy missteps sideline eight Bulldogs for bowl game

BOISE, Idaho -- All-America kick returner A.J. Jefferson was one of eight Fresno State players who have been suspended for Monday's Humanitarian Bowl against Georgia Tech.

Jefferson, fullback Isaac Kinter, defensive lineman Michael Stuart, tight end Cameron Harris, offensive lineman Chris Piligian, running back Jamaal Rashad and Jason Roberts all were suspended for missing curfew Friday.

The curfew, which has changed nightly since Fresno State arrived Thursday, was set at midnight Friday.

Linebacker Frank Padilla also was suspended, cited for violating an unidentified department policy.

"Though it may seem to be a minimal violation when you're talking about missing curfew," Fresno State athletic director Thomas Boeh said, "when you're preparing for a bowl, it's a significant violation of team rules.

"We're very disappointed. Coaches are disappointed. Teammates are disappointed. Everyone associated in the program is disappointed."

Hill declined comment through sports information director Steve Weakland.

The suspended players were told to go home Saturday morning after coaches informed the team of the suspensions. Some left via plane later in the day, and others are waiting today to leave via bus.

Jefferson, the most prominent player who was suspended, said that he hoped the coaches would have a change of heart and allow him to play.

Jefferson, who leads the nation in kick return yardage, denies violating the team's curfew policy and said he was in his room during bed check.

"Somebody said they saw me out," Jefferson said. "But when they contacted me, I was here. Basically, it's just a big misunderstanding. They say they saw me at a club past curfew and that's not true."

Jefferson said he spent much of Saturday talking to assistant coaches and Hill about the curfew situation, and hopes to be reinstated.

Jefferson missed the final two regular-season games because of a sprained ankle but had been practicing for the bowl.

Earlier Saturday, Hill declared Jefferson out for the bowl but implied it was because of the injury.

"A.J. Jefferson isn't ready to play, which is really a shame," Hill said during the afternoon news conference. Fresno State then sent out a news release Saturday night that announced the suspensions.

Boeh said he believed all the suspensions would be upheld through the bowl.

Though not a starter, Kinter contributed as an H-back who would block or release for passes out of the backfield.

Stuart also received playing time occasionally, as a reserve pass rusher. Piligian and Harris, meanwhile, rarely if ever played, buried deep in the depth chart. Roberts, Rashad and Padilla already were out with injuries.

The suspensions for those who were said to violate curfew came as a surprise to the players, Jefferson said.