WSU Cougars

WSU player expelled for role in summer party assault

Washington State nose tackle Robert Barber (92) stands on the field during a game against Eastern Washington in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. Barber has been expelled from school for his role in a fight that occurred at an off-campus party on July 23.
Washington State nose tackle Robert Barber (92) stands on the field during a game against Eastern Washington in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. Barber has been expelled from school for his role in a fight that occurred at an off-campus party on July 23. AP

Washington State’s senior nose tackle Robert Barber has been expelled from school for his role in a fight that occurred at an off-campus party on July 23, a source close to the situation confirmed to The Seattle Times on Thursday. His expulsion comes as a result of an investigation and hearing that was conducted last Wednesday by the school’s student conduct board.

The news was first reported by the Spokesman-Review, which quoted WSU Athletic Director Bill Moos saying that Barber is in the process of appealing his expulsion and has 21 days to do so.

Barber, 22, is a fifth-year senior who has started 15 career games for the Cougars at nose tackle. The 6-foot-3, 305-pounde Barber is a native of Pago Pago, American Samoa, and he’s Washington State’s most experienced defensive lineman.

The WSU athletic department by policy does not allow any athlete charged with a felony to continue participation in athletics. But because Barber has not been charged with a crime, it is up to coach Mike Leach to decide whether he will be allowed to continue practicing and playing with the football team.

The student conduct board’s ruling comes before a decision on whether charges will be filed by the Pullman Police Department. Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins said Wednesday that the department was wrapping up its investigation of the July 23 party and that he expected to put out a statement by the end of the week.

When asked via email Thursday night whether Barber was one of the suspects in the Pullman Police Department’s investigation into the July 23 party assault case, Jenkins said he could not yet comment on the names of any football players in that case, and said he had not been aware of Barber’s expulsion.

Alex Rodriguez was one of the two WSU students most seriously hurt in the assault at the July 23 party. Witnesses accused WSU football players of the assault that left Rodriguez’s jaw broken, while a second WSU student who declined to be named suffered a concussion.

Reached by phone on Thursday, Rodriguez said he’d heard rumors that Barber had been expelled but added that he wouldn’t get much closure yet because the police investigation and the student conduct board’s appeals process are still ongoing.

“The only thing that would help me out is knowing that (the expulsion is) true,” said Rodriguez, who had his jaw wired shut for six weeks.

The wires have been removed, but Rodriguez says his bite has not returned to normal. He said he can’t chew crunchy foods yet, and still experiences pain when he yawns or sneezes.

The student who suffered a concussion, a friend of Rodriguez’s, has recovered from most of his concussion symptoms but still suffers from occasional headaches.

Roberto Rodriguez, Alex’s father, said Thursday that he saw Barber’s expulsion as a “small peace of mind that steps are being made in the right direction” but added that he has been in touch with Pullman police over the last two months and is eagerly awaiting the results of their investigation into the incident.

“I think the police department has been very thorough in that investigation,” he said. “I’m just waiting for the results of that investigation to be concluded. From what I’ve been told, I don’t see any biases for targeted invididuals. I think they’ve been very thorough and the reason it’s taking so long is because they are being thorough. They didn’t want to mis-identify any suspects.”

Barber is the most experienced nose tackle on WSU’s roster. He started the first two games this season and has two tackles, including a sack and a tackle for loss, and also a pass breakup.

His backup, Ngalu Tapa, is a redshirt sophomore who took some reps in the Cougars’ first two games but did not register a stat and has never started a game in his career.

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