Willis reinstated, will play against Marshall
Published: Friday, October 13, 2006
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
SMU quarterback Justin Willis was reinstated to the football team Thursday, according to a statement released by the athletic department.
Willis was suspended from the team Friday afternoon after attacking sophomore Jamil Beard at an off-campus gathering earlier that morning.
Willis repeatedly hit Beard in the face and neck, causing a 1-inch laceration above his right eye, and according to police reports, called Beard a "fa*."
Beard told police the attack was a hate crime, but Willis contends he snapped after Beard harassed him for nine months.
The matter has been under investigation by the athletic department, Dallas Police and SMU Judicial Affairs.
Athletics completed its investigation early in the week, and the Dallas Police Department has not charged or arrested anyone involved, but the SMU Judicial Affairs office did not complete its investigation until Thursday afternoon.
The statement said Willis will abide by the sanctions imposed on him.
SMU Athletic Director Steve Orsini made the decision.
"Several factors have influenced the decision to reinstate Justin," Orsini said in the statement. "He is remorseful and contrite and has apologized for his actions. He understands that this was not acceptable behavior, and he has been penalized. He has been truthful and cooperative with all authorities involved in gathering facts on this matter. With lessons learned, it's time to move on."
Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations Brad Sutton said Willis is now a "student athlete in good standing" and has been fully reinstated with no probationary terms.
"He's no different than any other player on the team right now," he said.
Sutton also said as with any student athlete, if DPD or any other law enforcement agency files charges against Willis, the athletic department would reevaluate his status.
Head coach Phil Bennett said Willis will not start in Saturday's game against Marshall, but he'll see time on the field.
"He will play, but I'm not going to make a commitment when or where," said Bennett.
Junior college transfer Corey Slater will make his second career start Saturday.
Willis attended team practice Thursday afternoon and worked alongside Slater with both the starting running backs and receivers.
Bennett banned Willis from speaking to the media after Thursday's practice, and his father Samuel Willis, who spent much of the week defending his son in the media, declined to comment Thursday night.
Junior center Ben Poynter said he is glad to have Willis back and doesn't mind preparing to play with two quarterbacks.
"Corey knows the offense well," said Poynter. "We've got both of them [Slater and Willis], so we're pretty set to go."
Poynter said he hopes fans will give Willis a warm welcome when he makes his return to the field Saturday.
Slater said he was glad to be getting more reps during the past week of practice, as well as getting to work more with the starting offensive linesmen. He added he is going to make the best out of the opportunity to start on Saturday, and wants to make an impact in the game and on the coaching staff.
"In any situation where you get to play on the field with the No. 1s, you've got to come out and play," Slater said.
Slater said the combination of Willis and himself should help the team Saturday.
"Justin brings things to the table I don't bring, and I bring things he doesn't," Slater said.
Slater said the incidents of the last week have been a distraction to the team, but when it first learned that he would be starting last weekend, some of his teammates took the time to reassure him.
"Bobby [Chase], [Zack] Sledge [wide receivers] and [Ryan] Kennedy [tight end] brought me to their room and said 'we have complete faith in you,'" Slater said.
Saturday's game is at 2 p.m. in Ford Stadium.