Middle Tennessee suspended quarterback Dwight Dasher indefinitely Friday for accepting a $1,500 loan in violation of the NCAA's amateurism rules. University officials will be asking the NCAA to reinstate him with a punishment lasting no more than three games.
That means the senior who set a bowl record by rushing for 201 yards as a quarterback, topping the 200 yards Vince Young ran for in the 2006 BCS National Championship, will miss the Blue Raiders' season opener Thursday when Minnesota visits.
"He's disappointed obviously, but his teammates have rallied behind him and his coaches have rallied behind him," coach Rick Stockstill said. "He's humbled in this situation, and he knows he made a mistake. ... I've said it before that's part of your responsibility as a coach is to help these young men grow and learn from the mistakes they've made. But he's doing good."
University officials announced a week ago that they were looking into a report filed with campus police involving an 80-year-old patient at a Veterans Administration hospital in town and Dasher. Middle Tennessee hired an outside company, The Compliance Group, to help investigate.
Athletic director Chris Massaro issued a statement just before a news conference Friday confirming that Dasher had been ineligible to play but still will practice with the team. The penalty for this type of violation typically is a 30 percent reduction in games, which can be raised or lowered.
Massaro said he wanted objectivity to ensure the investigation was handled properly. The investigation found no NCAA violations by the university with only the amateurism breach where both Dash and Oliver Donnell, the 80-year-old who gave Dasher the money, agree the quarterback received the loan because he is a football player.
"We wanted to make a fact-based decision, and there's a lot of emotion that works in these kind of things," Massaro said. "You try to strip it away and make a fact-based decision. The fact that Dwight has a lot of publicity and his athletic prowess in some ways complicates it because you don't want to make decisions based on that either."
Dasher led the Blue Raiders to a 10-3 record last season as the team finished 2009 with a seven-game winning streak capped with a 42-32 win in the New Orleans Bowl. He is the Sun Belt Conference's preseason offensive player of the year and is already Middle Tennessee's career leader in yards rushing by a quarterback.
Massaro couldn't comment on whether Dasher has repaid the loan because that was part of the university's inquiry.
"I think Dwight's full intent was to pay it by Aug. 27th, so we're very hopeful that it'll be paid today," Massaro said.
If Dasher misses three games, he would not play against FCS-level Austin Peay on Sept. 11 or at Memphis on Sept. 18. It would allow him to return Sept. 25 when the Blue Raiders visit Louisiana-Lafayette with his second game back being Oct. 5 against defending Sun Belt champ Troy — winners of four straight in this series.
Another campus police report lists Dasher being involved with a student whose student financial aid debit card had been improperly used for up to $1,000. That involves Dasher's roommate and teammate, right guard Colin Boss. Asked if that situation had been resolved, Stockstill said he couldn't talk about that yet.
Stockstill will settle on his new starting quarterback after Saturday's practice, and neither of his options have played a snap yet at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
Junior Jeff Murphy played at Laney College, a junior college in California where he threw for 1,845 yards as a freshman and 1,749 yards and 16 TDs as a sophomore before signing with Middle Tennessee. Sophomore Logan Kilgore threw for 2,512 yards and 22 touchdowns at Bakersfield College last year.
"We're a good team with Dwight, but we're not all Dwight and that's what our team believes ...," Stockstill said. "I don't think it's lip service."
Senior running back Phillip Tanner, back himself from a knee injury that ended his 2009 season after two games, said whoever is at quarterback won't affect the team.
"We let everybody know, the whole team, that whatever quarterback comes up under center on Sept. 2, we're going to do whatever we have to do to beat Minnesota on Sept. 2," Tanner said.