UMass football players facing drug charges to play homecoming

By Michelle Williams

*Editor’s note appended. See bottom of story.

The lineup for the University of Massachusetts Homecoming game Oct. 17 against the University of New Hampshire will include the four UMass players arrested for possession of cocaine two weeks ago.

The four players — James Carven, Bob McLaughlin, Mike Mele and Shane Viveiros — were penalized with a suspension of 10 percent of their season, and allowed full privilege to practice with the team starting last Wednesday. This punishment is in accordance with University policy and the drug and alcohol policy of the athletic department, according to University officials.

While neither Athletic Director John McCutcheon nor head coach Kevin Morris were available for comment at the time of press, UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said of the general situation, “If the students are able to participate in athletic activities they are currently enrolled and allowed to attend classes. Otherwise they wouldn’t be allowed to play.”

The four players have been practicing with the team since Wednesday in preparation for Saturday’s game against the University of New Hampshire.

All four players are currently fully reinstated and eligible to play in this weekend’s homecoming game, although it is unknown whether or not any will actually play. Viveiros, a sophomore from Fall River, Mass., has started three of the first four games and proved himself as a strong player making 19 tackles. Carven, sophomore, Hanover, Mass. plays majority of his time on the special teams. McLaughlin, junior, Brewster, Mass. is a second-string defensive end and has made three tackles this year. Mele, junior, Sea Girt, N.J. has yet to play due to an injury.

Though the players are allowed to play in this weekend’s game, they are still expected to stand trial.

Currently they all have been charged with possession of a Class B substance. Viveiros and Mele are also facing Class 3 misdemeanor charges of using false identification. For the possession charges the students may face up to a year in prison for a first offense.

All have pleaded not guilty to all the accused charges. Their next court date is scheduled for November 16th.

The four players are also expected to go before the University judicial system, pending the results of their court cases. Evidence from the criminal court case as well as the verdict will be sent to Dean of Students Jo Ann Vanin’s office.

According to the UMass Drug and Policy Handbook, “unlawful possession of a controlled substance is prohibited.” If any of the students live in University housing they may face a range of punishments.

While the University was not allowed to speak of the students directly due to federal privacy laws, the Drug and Policy Handbook states that for a first offense there is a housing probations for two semesters and the requirement of the BASICS I class. For a second offense, housing is deferred for two semesters and mandatory BASICS II class. A third offense results in permanent housing removal and restriction from current residence hall.

Though the players were suspended for 10 percent of their seasons, it is unclear how this punishment was determined. The University’s Athletic Department does not specifically address arrests for drug possession. However, a 10 percent suspension is the set punishment for student athletes who fail to pass a drug test.

It is unknown if the four boys were tested for drugs after their arrest by the University or by the Amherst Police Department.

With the homecoming game this weekend, some worry about the effect of negative publicity on the team.

“Arrests do nothing but bring negative publicity to the school because the local media is aware of everything that goes on with athletics at our school,”  said Jeff Smith, the associate athletic director for sports medicine.

“As an athletics department, we work hard to educate our athletes so that these incidents do not happen, and that the news about UMass athletics is all positive,” he said.

Smith said that drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and performing enhancing drugs are banned by the NCAA.

As the players did not fail a drug test mandated by the NCAA it is unknown whether the national organization will become involved at this time.

When asked on how the behavior of a few students can affect an entire team, Smith said, “A few individuals can disrupt everything. A team is only as strong as its weakest link. Especially seniors, they are the example setters, and if they do not set a good example the younger guys will follow their bad example and it could really ruin a season.”

Michelle Williams can be reached at [email protected]

Editor’s Note: This story included quotes from Jeff Smith, associate athletic director for sports medicine for UMass Athletics. Due to editorial oversight, it was not disclosed that these quotes were obtained by the reporter through a third party who conducted an interview with Smith for a journalism course. Additionally, Smith has said he was not told that the material could end up in The Collegian.

Although the information used was accurate, The Daily Collegian would like to apologize to Smith for the error, and to our readers for not being more upfront about how we obtained and made use of it.