The University of Arkansas suspended five players Tuesday, including three athletes identified in a rape complaint that did not result in charges, for violating unspecified team rules.
Coach John Pelphrey said guards Courtney Fortson, the top returning scorer, and starter Stefan Welsh were suspended indefinitely. Guard Marcus Britt was suspended for six games, forward Glenn Bryant two games, and walk-on guard Nick Mason will not dress for games during the fall semester.
The school did not provide specific reasons for the suspensions, which will keep all players out of Friday night's season opener.
An 18-year-old freshman accused three basketball players of raping her Aug. 27 at a fraternity house party. The police report identified the players as Britt, Bryant and Mason. The prosecutor in the case, John Threet, said there was insufficient evidence to file charges, but the case is now before a special prosecutor at the request of the woman and her attorney.
Threet didn't oppose the request, though he has said he stands by his decision not to file charges The woman's attorney, John Bass, has suggested there was a conflict of interest because Threet is the son-in-law of former Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles and the brother-in-law of an athletic department spokesman.
Bass said he wouldn't comment on the suspensions.
Pelphrey said in September that although his players were cleared of criminal wrongdoing, he expected them to "adhere to a higher standard and code of conduct," and added suspensions would be forthcoming.
After the players were accused, Fortson posted a crude message on Twitter that referenced the incident.
Athletic department spokesman Phil Pierce said the incident at the fraternity house was not the sole cause of Tuesday's discipline.
"All of the suspensions are not related to that incident," Pierce said.
A woman identifying herself as Bryant's mother answered at a number listed for the freshman, but said she had no comment. Britt did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment late Tuesday, and a number for him appeared to be disconnected.
Mason did not immediately return phone messages left by The Associated Press. It was not clear whether the three players have attorneys.
A number for Welsh also appeared to be disconnected, and a person who answered a call for Fortson said it was the wrong number.
"This collection of suspensions is not yesterday, day before. This dates back," Pelphrey said. "As a college basketball coach, the biggest hammer we have is taking away playing time, taking away game time. We feel like some of these issues merited having those things taken away."
The suspensions will be served concurrently, so with forward Michael Sanchez injured, Arkansas could be missing six players for Friday's game against Alcorn State.
"When I took this job I said it was my dream job, and I meant it," said Pelphrey, entering his third season as Razorbacks coach. "We are working, and we are making progress."
The Arkansas men's basketball program has been plagued by several off-the-court issues recently. Britt was arrested during the offseason on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. And earlier this year, the program was put on notice by the NCAA about its low academic-progress rate.
Pierce said he wasn't aware of any additional suspensions.
"Like anything, if something new is to pop up, I'm sure that coach would reserve the right to add to what he has already done," he said.