The Citadel’s top administrator defended the school’s admission process and football recruiting practices this week after Charleston, S.C., news media learned of Reggie Rice’s past problems while a student-athlete in Columbia County.
Lt Gen. John Rosa – in a letter to faculty, staff and alumni – said football recruits have been thoroughly vetted since head coach Kevin Higgins arrived in 2005.
“He and the coaching staff conduct numerous interviews with their recruits, their families, their coaches and the community leaders who know them best,” Rosa wrote.
Rice, a former Greenbrier High School football standout, was a cadet and Citadel football player from 2006 until 2008. While a senior at Greenbrier, he pleaded guilty to felony statutory rape following a September 2005 incident involving three teen girls. He was sentenced in Juvenile Court to 24 months of probation and 56 hours of community service.
Rice enrolled at The Citadel -- a traditional military school known for its strict discipline -- and was offered a scholarship.
Duncan Wheale, a former Augusta Judicial Circuit Superior Court judge and Citadel graduate, presided over Rice’s 2005 case and sent it to Juvenile Court. He would not comment on the case this week. Wheale, who now lives in Charleston with his wife, said he does volunteer work for the military institution.
Rosa said The Citadel’s admissions process tightened following the April 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech.
“We now require more information from candidates,” Rosa wrote in his faculty letter. “Additionally, if the director of admissions has any concerns regarding an application, he presents them to me for consideration before final action is taken.”
Rice was arrested Feb. 27 and charged with armed robbery, first-degree burglary, kidnapping and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. He is being held without bond on the first-degree burglary charge. Bond for his other three charges was set at $350,000. He has no attorney listed on court records.
He also had a clean record within the state, according to a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division criminal history report.
Citadel quarterback Miguel Starks, College of Charleston student Sasha Gaskins and her boyfriend were also charged in the case after Citadel football assistant Josh Harpe told police he was lured from his apartment, forced back inside at gunpoint, bound with duct tape and robbed.
Starks is no longer enrolled at The Citadel, Rosa said in his statement.
Rice and Starks are listed as co-defendants on an affidavit charging Gaskins in another armed robbery case. Charleston County sheriff’s Maj. John Clark said more charges stemming from that case could come as early as today.
The victim in that case, Herbert Joseph Butler III, was a cadet from 2006 until 2008. He was enrolled during the spring of 2009 but did not complete the semester, according to The Citadel media relations coordinator Charlene Gunnels. Police believe Butler knew Rice, the Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston reported this week.
Butler has other problems.
The Charleston newspaper also reported today that Butler is being held in a Florida jail after pleading guilty Wednesday on marijuana sale charges, authorities said. He had initially been arrested Nov. 13 at a Florida campground, according to a Suwannee County sheriff’s report.
In 2006, Charleston police charged Butler with misdemeanor possession of marijuana, according to a SLED report.
The full statement from The Citadel president Lt Gen. John Rosa:
“A Message to The Citadel Family:
We have all been staggered by the recent arrests of Miguel Starks and Reginald Rice. This episode shines a harsh light on the college because we hold ourselves to higher standards.
At this point we must keep in mind that the arrests of Mr. Starks and Mr. Rice are part of a police investigation. I do not have all the information held by the police, and it would not be appropriate for me to speculate on an ongoing investigation. Moreover, we must remember that all Americans are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
I know that many of you have questions about Mr. Starks’ enrollment and departure from The Citadel. I can report that Mr. Starks is no longer enrolled at The Citadel. However, the details of student records are protected by federal privacy laws.
There have also been questions surrounding the admission of Reginald Rice, a former cadet and football player who was arrested along with Mr. Starks. Again, The Citadel is limited in what it can say. However, upon his arrival in 2005, Coach Kevin Higgins instituted a vigorous investigative process of recruits’ backgrounds. He and the coaching staff conduct numerous interviews with their recruits, their families, their coaches, and the community leaders who know them best. Additionally, there is an admissions process that all applicants, including athletes, must complete before gaining admission to The Citadel. Mr. Rice, who came from an active-duty military family, was accepted in 2006, and offered a football scholarship. His enrollment at the college ended during the fall 2008 semester.
As did many colleges in the country, The Citadel revised its admission application process following the tragedy at Virginia Tech. We now require more information from candidates. Additionally, if the director of admissions has any concerns regarding an application, he presents them to me for consideration before final action is taken.
I meet with our coaches every year and I deliver one, simple message:character first, then athletic ability. As someone who played football at The Citadel I understand personally the importance of recruiting and admitting cadet-student-athletes who are up to the challenges they will face on the playing field and in the Corps of Cadets. Unfortunatelythis system is not foolproof, and there will be students who do not meet our expectations.
The alleged actions of two former students have caused some to question the integrity of the entire Corps. That does a disservice to the fine young men and women who need our support, not condemnation. My job and that of faculty and staff is to help them achieve the standards we expect. Last week I conducted my annual President’s inspection.Although the Corps did not meet my full expectations, I saw effort and improvement from the previous two years.
Our Commandant, Col Leo Mercado, USMC (ret.), is personally dedicated to holding all cadets to the high standards clearly laid out in our regulations. We constantly review our procedures to make sure they reinforce with cadets the importance of holding themselves and others accountable to that standard. If we find a problem we fix it. Our procedures are not perfect; no procedures are. But we are committed to recognizing when there are flaws, and addressing them to improve our results.
I addressed the Corps at lunch today in Coward Hall. I told them what I expected of them, that they will hold themselves and others accountable for meeting the high standards of The Citadel. I also told them all to take a hard look in the mirror and if they aren’t willing to meet our standards that they should leave The Citadel. I also let them know that I am confident they will uphold our college’s values and traditions.
Let’s also not forget that there is much good news here at The Citadel.Take a look at the college’s website, www.citadel.edu and the website of the athletic department, www.citadelsports.com. You will find examples of how our students are succeeding in and out of the classroom. Let me share just a few facts about the football team:
* The fall semester football team GPA was 2.90 - the overall GPA of the Corps was 2.91.
* About 60 of our football players earned a 3.0 or better during the fall semester.
* Team member Ryan Keiper, who has earned Gold Stars during each of his seven semesters in the Corps, is a national finalist for a
Fulbright research grant.
* The NCAA graduation success rate for The Citadel football team was 90%, compared to the national average of just 65 percent.
In closing, the times may change and the world around us may change, but The Citadel’s core values will remain constant. Duty, honor, discipline - some of the core values that make Citadel education unique and why we all take such pride in this college. We will continue to set the bar high for our cadets and do whatever we can to inspire their success.
Thank you again for all that you do on behalf of The Citadel.”