By Jeff Owens/Photo by Allen Sharpe
CHARLOTTE — South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp praised Deebo Samuel and Skai Moore Monday and was furious at a media report that inaccurately portrayed the two players as being involved in a bar fight in Five Points last week.
The two players were named in an incident report by the Columbia Police Department as being in involved in an alleged assault at Five Points Saloon along with a former football player. Both players have since been cleared of any wrongdoing.
According to the police, Samuel was not at the bar and Moore was not involved in the alleged assault.
Muschamp said the police report included "an account of one person in a bar that was totally incorrect."
What troubles him more, he said, is that media accounts of the incident named both players based on the police incident report.
"Those two men, since I have been in Columbia, have been phenomenal young men in how they have handled their business," he said. "There have been no issues from me. I talked to both young men on the day that the article was printed and Deebo said, 'Coach, I wasn't there.' I trust our guys, and he wasn't there.
"Skai said, 'Coach, I was there but I feel like I didn't do anything wrong. I tried to diffuse the situation.' The investigating officer commended Skai on his behavior and how he handled a very hostile situation.
"It is sickening to me what these two young men have been put through and they have done nothing wrong."
Muschamp, who has defended both players since the issue emerged publicly last week, addressed the incident Monday in Charlotte, where he was attending a press conference to promote the Belk College Kickoff Game against N.C. State.
"It's just frustrating that you have to deal with that," Muschamp said. "They took a shot at South Carolina and our football team and I don't appreciate it."
Even more frustrating is that the issue emerged as assistant coaches are out recruiting and they have had to answer questions from parents.
"It's unfortunate in our time and age that a student-athlete is generally guilty until proven innocent, and that's not the legal system that we have set up," he said. "You're innocent until proven guilty and unfortunately a lot of stories … that are portrayed is that the young man obviously did it, and then we have to prove that he didn't do it. I trust our guys. Our guys said they didn't do anything wrong, and that's what happened."
Samuel, a junior wide receiver, was one of South Carolina's leading offensive players last year, scoring eight touchdowns rushing and receiving. Moore, a senior linebacker, was South Carolina's leading tackler for three straight seasons. He is returning for his senior season after missing last year after neck surgery.
Muschamp said both players will be able to put the incident behind them.
"They will be fine," he said. "Skai has been through too much this year. You're talking about a guy who had football taken away from him and he didn't know if he was going to play again, has a major surgery, was shut down for six months. These guys have been through a lot. They will be fine."