Harper resigns as three players are suspended

WKU’s head coach Ray Harper calls the team together during a timeout in the Hilltopper’s 88-77 win over UAB in the quarterfinals in the C-USA tournament Thursday at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Ala. The win over the top seeded Blazers advances WKU to the semifinals where they will face either LA Tech or ODU. Mike Clark/HERALD

John Reecer

March Sadness

The Hilltopper basketball program was hit with devastating news on Thursday as Head Coach Ray Harper resigned while junior guard Fredrick Edmond and freshman guards Chris McNeal and Marlon Hunter were all suspended from the team.

There is currently no timetable for how long the players are suspended, as Harper’s resignation was effective immediately.

“I feel this is in the best interests of the program, a program I care deeply about,” Harper said in a statement. “It has been a true honor being a part of this historic program as both a head coach and assistant coach.”

The three players were suspended from the program after the outcome of a hearing conducted by the University Disciplinary Committee on Wednesday night.

When asked if Harper’s resignation was due to the results of the committee hearing, President Gary Ransdell said there “may have been multiple considerations, but, yes, this was the primary reason.”

No reason was given for the resignation or the suspensions as federal law prevents public discussion of any details related to student disciplinary cases.

However, Zach Greenwell of the Bowling Green Daily News and Chad Bishop of WBKO have both confirmed that the suspensions are neither academic nor NCAA related.

“Today is obviously a very difficult day,” Athletic Director Todd Stewart said in a WKU press release Thursday. “President Gary Randsell and I met with our team a short while ago. We will begin the process of identifying and hiring our next head coach immediately.”

In his five seasons as head coach at WKU, Harper recorded a 90-61 record: a 60 percent winning percentage.

The program also saw two tournament championships won in the Sun Belt Conference and an NCAA Tournament victory in the first round over Mississippi Valley State during Harper’s tenure.

Harper is not the only big loss for the  program as the three suspended players all played a sizable role on the team this year.

The team relied on Edmond heavily throughout the season as he was third on the team in points per game (12.2), second in assists per game (2.7) and second in rebounds per game (5.9).

The indefinite suspensions of Hunter and McNeal put another stressful situation on the program as the promising freshman guards are a critical part of the future of the program.

McNeal lead the team in assists per game (3.9) and started in 29 contests from the point guard position.

Hunter managed to end the season second overall on the team in steals with 24. The Memphis native also managed to appear in 32 of WKU’s 34 games.

None of the mentioned players were available for comment, but Edmond did tweet the following on his personal Twitter on Thursday: “I want (sic) stop chasing my dreams God got a plan for me” and “I appreciate all the support it means more than you guys think.”

While there is no timetable for how long the suspensions will last, the program is currently without a single guard on scholarship who isn’t suspended; senior guard Aaron Cosby is set to graduate.

The only guards on the roster not suspended are walk-ons Kiefer Dalton and Dylan Sanford.

The Herald has filed multiple open records requests related to this story and will continue to update our coverage as we obtain more information on the situation as it comes available.