Hamline temporarily shuts down men's basketball program after alleged player-on-woman assault

Lawrence's (left) assault arrest resulted in the indefinite suspension of Whitmore (right), though it's unclear how the coach was involved.
Lawrence's (left) assault arrest resulted in the indefinite suspension of Whitmore (right), though it's unclear how the coach was involved.

Hamline University men's basketball coach Nelson Whitmore has been indefinitely suspended and 14 players face discipline in connection with an player-on-woman assault that allegedly took place in a Spokane, Washington hotel room on New Year's Eve.

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As we told you about last week, freshman Eugene Lawrence, 18, faces a felony second-degree assault charge for allegedly shattering a 20-year-old woman's face with a punch that knocked her unconscious. He's since been dismissed from the basketball team.

The Pioneer Press spoke with the woman's father, Steve Bray, who shed a bit more light on the incident that took place just before 4 a.m. and left his daughter with a broken jaw and eye socket:

Bray said his daughter told him Lawrence punched her after they got into an argument. Her face bloodied, she asked the other Hamline players to give her a ride to the hospital, Bray said. But according to his daughter, they refused, saying they did not want to break the team's curfew. She called 911 herself, Bray said.

"She asked them for help, and they made the decision not to help her," he said.

Hamline isn't releasing the findings of its internal investigation into the incident, so it's unclear how coach Whitmore was involved. But his suspension -- along with the suspension of 14 players -- prompted the school to forfeit Saturday's scheduled game at Gustavus. The next game on the men basketball team's schedule is this Wednesday at home against St. Olaf, but Hamline's administration hasn't yet announced whether that game will actually be played.

The school announced its discipline against Whitmore and his players in this statement:

After a thorough external investigation and internal review of the matter, including interviews with the players traveling with the team, we have disciplined a number of the players on our men's basketball team. One of our players is accused of seriously injuring a young woman on New Year's Eve while the team was in Spokane, Washington for a tournament. Eugene Lawrence has been released to the custody of his parents in his home state. He was dismissed from the basketball program and suspended from the university pending a formal hearing. Fourteen students face disciplinary procedures for student handbook violations and team suspensions of varying lengths of time for violating standards set forth in Hamline's athletic code of conduct. The team's head coach is suspended indefinitely. As a consequence, Saturday's scheduled men's basketball game will be forfeited.

This is an extraordinarily serious incident and we are treating it as such. We hold our players to the highest standards as students, athletes, and citizens. Behavior contrary to the principles set forth in our codes of conduct will not be tolerated.

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