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TCNJ Player: Rowan coach wanted to fight me

November 18, 2009

An unidentified man, believed to be a coach with the Rowan University football team, allegedly threatened The College of New Jersey strong safety Shawn Brown, 20, during an altercation after Saturday’s game between the two schools.

Two of Brown’s teammates – free safety Ryan Flannery and wide receiver Colin Weber – offered eyewitness accounts that the individual in question confronted Brown and put his hands on him during the post-game scuffle, which started when teams shook hands after Rowan’s 39-0 victory.

Brown supported the accounts in an interview.

“He grabbed my jersey and then he went to throw a punch,” Brown said Monday morning. “Then [TCNJ defensive coordinator Matt Hamilton] stepped in between.”

According to player explanations, the physical nature of the skirmish started after Weber, 21, was pushed out of the line of TCNJ players by a dressed player on Rowan’s roster. The three identified the player as cornerback Malcolm Dock, listed as a senior on Rowan’s official roster, based on recollection of his jersey number (#9).

Weber said he believed the incident started after he walked by Dock without shaking his hand. Brown and Flannery stood in line immediately in front of Weber. When they became aware of the contact, they said they turned around and returned the shove to Dock.

Each instance of contact was confirmed as open-handed.

Both Flannery and Brown described their intentions as “defensive” and “protective,” rather than provocative.

“We were just being defensive of our boy,” Brown said Monday morning. “We just turned around having his back, but we weren’t trying to get involved or anything.”

“Me and Shawn pushed him,” Flannery said Monday afternoon. “[Malcolm Dock] fell back a couple yards, but not to the ground or anything.”

Immediately thereafter, the three TCNJ players said that the man they believed to a member of Rowan’s coaching staff “came out of nowhere” and involved himself directly with Brown.

“He was just screaming at us like, ‘Back the [expletive] up you pieces of [expletive]. You guys just lost, back the [expletive] up,’” Brown said Monday morning. “He came after us while he was saying this. That’s what I didn’t understand.”

Brown said Tuesday, during a follow-up interview that he and the man “would have been in a fist-fight if Matt Hamilton didn’t step in-between.”

Neither Flannery nor Weber saw the individual’s hand raised.

“As far as his hand being cocked back I didn’t see anything like that,” said Flannery. “It looked like he was going to hit him but I didn’t see that, specifically.”

Both, however, described his demeanor and body language.

“He came in ready to fight, not wanting to try and break it up at all,” Weber said. “He grabbed [Brown] and you could see it in his face. He didn’t seem at any point like he was civilized or anything.”

“He didn’t take like a peaceful and calm demeanor about it,” Flannery said. “He tried to escalate it, coming after Shawn Brown. That’s what I saw.”

Flannery continued later.

“The players were obviously heated, having just played a game and everything. But when a coach steps in like that, that’s not trying to diffuse the situation and trying to keep things under control. It looked like he was trying to fight more than the players. … He wasn’t in line with the kids or anything. Coaches usually aren’t in the line. I guess he saw the situation coming about and came running over. But he didn’t try to diffuse the situation. He tried to escalate it.”

When asked if he had any doubts that the individual’s actions were aggressive, Brown said he didn’t think so.

“Without a doubt,” he said. “He was physical with us—with me, particularly.”

Weber said he saw another individual, who Brown identified as assistant defensive line coach Justin Hinds, immediately rush over in an effort to stifle the matter. Another unidentified individual, believed to be an undressed Rowan player, also attempted to mediate, according to Brown and Flannery.

“Another coach on Rowan’s staff, he was being civilized,” Weber said. “[Hinds] was just like, ‘Break it up,’ whatever.”

Flannery said he did not see the other individual but confirmed that TCNJ defensive coordinator Matt Hamilton was trying to intervene.

“I saw [Matt Hamilton] in there trying to break it up,” Flannery said. “But as far as the other coach, no. I didn’t see that part.”

Matt Hamilton was contacted during the preliminary investigation, though the conversations were understood as off-the-record. He, and all of the TCNJ assistant coaches, deferred comment to head coach Eric Hamilton when contacted for on-record comment.

Eric Hamilton, who was present during and after the game, said he didn’t see exactly what happened during the incident.

“I wasn’t there,” he said Monday afternoon. “I did my homework like anyone else trying to figure out what happened.”

Brown described the individual as “big,” referring to muscle definition. He was also described as having “long, brown, curly hair.” He could not be positively identified by players, who were asked to match his face to photographs available on RowanAthletics.com, under the site’s 2009 roster page that offers complete lists of players and coaches.

“He was dressed in the same uniform as the coaches, and he had a headset on the whole game,” Brown said Tuesday. “I don’t know why he wasn’t listed on the web site. He was definitely a coach.”

Photographs of four assistants—Sean Hendricks, Jeff Lewis, Ryan Stevenson Brian Wright—are not available under the team’s 2009 roster page. Photos of Lewis, Stevenson and Wright are available elsewhere, under varying archived roster pages dating back to 2006.

Players confirmed that none of those three were the man who they allege initiated physical contact with Brown.

According to Eric Hamilton’s understanding, the individual was “someone affiliated with the [Rowan football] program,” and could have been, though was not necessarily, a member of the coaching staff.

He offered no further comment on the allegations.

Hamilton, who completed his 33rd year as head coach at the end of the 2009 regular season, did offer an explanation of what he called “protocol” for managing those scenarios.

“If there’s a situation that occurs, you never grab a player from an opposing team. You grab your own. That’s not the way you handle that.”

In an official e-mail issued by Rowan’s Sports Information Desk, Assistant Sports Information Director Jon McMenamin declined an opportunity to respond on behalf of the Rowan University coaching staff and athletic director.

“Our coaching staff has no comment on what happened after the game,” he said in an e-mail, sent Monday evening.

Sheila Stevenson, Rowan’s Sports Information Director, was contacted earlier Monday afternoon for media clearance for both head coach Jay Accorsi and athletic director Joy Solomen, and was notified of the exact allegations.

During the course of the game, New Jersey Athletic Conference officials threw 19 total personal foul penalties related to excessive aggression during and after plays.

TCNJ was flagged for eight unnecessary roughness penalties, while Rowan was penalized seven times for the same type of activity. The Profs were called for four additional unsportsmanlike conduct violations (TCNJ-0). Two players, one from each team, were ejected in the third quarter.

“I thought it was a chippy second half,” Eric Hamilton said Monday. Earlier in the interview, he called the possibility of an altercation “the downside of trying to shake hands after a game like that.”

The football aspect of the game was predominantly lopsided, in favor Rowan University, as the Profs outgained the Lions 541 yards to only 52, and led 28-0 at the half. “Extra-cirriculars,” did not seem to be correlated with the increasing point and yards totals, however, as 11 of the total personal foul penalties occurred during the first two quarters.

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