Coker was Subject of Assault Investigation in October

By Marc Morehouse, Reporter

Iowa running back Marcus Coker (34) eyes Nebraska defenders as he pulls in a pass from James Vandenberg in the third quarter of Iowa's 7-20 loss at Memorial Stadium on Friday, Nov. 25, 2011, in Lincoln. (Liz Martin/SourceMedia Group News)

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By James Steward

IOWA CITY, Iowa - On Dec. 30, wayward Iowa running back Marcus Coker told KCRG via Facebook that he wanted to return to the Univeristy of Iowa.

“Hawk for life,” Coker wrote. The 6-foot, 230-pounder was suspended from the Insight Bowl on Dec. 20 for a violation of University of Iowa policies and the UI Student-Athlete Code of Conduct.

Tuesday, the Big Ten’s second-leading rusher last season with 1,384 yards asked for and was granted his release from the UI.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was unavailable for comment, according to UI sports information director Steve Roe.

Coker, who was pre-registered for the spring semester at Iowa as late as a week ago, withdrew his application to enroll. Immediate attempts to contact Coker were unsuccessful.

Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said Coker asked for his release Tuesday morning. Barta said Coker remained suspended until the sophomore from Beltsville, Md., cut ties with the UI Tuesday. Barta didn’t know if there were any stipulations to the release and that might still be under discussion.

“I don’t know that I knew what to expect, other than I knew that his status at some point would be adjusted one way or the other,” Barta told reporters before the Iowa men’s basketball game Tuesday night against Michigan State in East Lansing.

Coker wrote this post on his Facebook page Tuesday night: “Welp so much for that. It was a good 2 years iowa..best 2 I could of asked for. Thanks again for the support. I really wish I could tell u guys wats goin on cuz its really ridiculous to b punished for somethin I didnt do. Id like to think [thank] the coaches and athletic staff for everything. Hawk for life.”

Ferentz said during the Insight Bowl pregame radio that he expected Coker and freshman Mika’il McCall to return from suspensions. McCall, who was suspended since late November for an unspecified violation of team rules, said last week he would transfer.

Barta was asked if there was an ongoing legal investigation concerning Coker: “I don’t think so,” he said. He also was asked if there ever was an investigation concerning Coker: “I’m not going to comment on anything beyond where I’ve been so far.”

Late Tuesday night, Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine confirmed to the Gazette that Coker was the subject of an investigation for an alleged assault.

According to an Iowa City Police Department incident report from Oct. 28, 2011, a woman reported to police that she was the victim of an assault at Coker’s residence, 618 Iowa Ave.

The report isn’t detailed, but does note the responding officer was dispatched to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for a sexual assault.

Coker was never charged and the investigation has concluded.

Iowa defensive lineman Darian Cooper, a former teammate of Coker’s at DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland, showed support for Coker in a Facebook post late Tuesday night: “marcus Coker has been like a big bro to me since the seventh grade I can say I tried to emulate his wherever I went (ex high school, and even my descion on where to go to college). Best of luck bro u def got talent.”

Nearly eight weeks passed since the alleged incident and Coker’s suspension. Barta declined to offer any insight beyond Tuesday’s statement.

“There’s nothing I can do about rumors,” Barta said. “They happen every single day in every walk of life, every business aspect and certainly college sports.

“What I can tell is what I’ve told you. When we went into the bowl, he was suspended because he violated the student-athlete code of conduct. Beyond that, he was suspended because he violated the student-athlete code of conduct. Beyond that, I’m not going say anymore. I know there’s a lot of speculation.”

A violation of the UI student-athlete Code of Conduct has an appeals process. After a written request from the student-athlete, Barta would consult with UI officials on whether the suspension should be modified or lifted. If “circumstances warrant a change in a suspension,” Barta would then be able to reinstate an athlete. It’s not known if an appeals process was requested from Coker.

On Dec. 30, Coker was “Hawk for life.” On Jan. 10, he was released from scholarship and shopping for a new school.

Coker’s Iowa career ends with 2,006 yards and 18 TDs. The 2012 season will be the fourth consecutive Iowa will go into with a substantial change on the running back depth chart.

Coker’s Iowa career ended prematurely, just as five running backs have had their careers at Iowa end in the last 13 months. Including Coker and McCall, Adam Robinson (suspension before marijuana citation that led to dismissal), Jewel Hampton (transfer) and Brandon Wegher (left the team, cited personal reasons) also left the UI before reaching their junior seasons.

It’s a stunning amount of attrition at one position.

“Obviously we’ve had several running backs that haven’t finished their career at Iowa,” Barta said. “That’s a concern. But again, it’s a concern; it’s probably more public when it’s a position like a running back position but anytime a student-athlete — I have 700 of them in our program — and any time one leaves it’s a concern.

“I’m not going to speculate. I know today Marcus left and we’re out recruiting and we still have guys that are on the roster. Our goal is every time we bring somebody to campus, we bring them with the purpose of competing for championships and graduating. Anytime that doesn’t happen, it concerns me.”

Sophomore Jordan Canzeri is now Iowa’s leading returning rusher with 131 yards on 31 carries last season. He had 58 yards on 22 carries in Iowa’s 31-14 defeat to Oklahoma in the Insight. The 5-foot-8, 175-pounder also had six catches for 28 yards and a TD. Sophomores De’Andre Johnson (18 carries for 79 yards) and Damon Bullock (10 carries for 20 yards) are on the roster.

Last week, Iowa received a commitment from Erie, Pa., running back Greg Garmon, who rushed for 2,859 yards and 27 touchdowns in his career at McDowell High School.
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