The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) championship football game between Winston-Salem State and Virginia State scheduled for Nov. 16 was cancelled after Winston-Salem State quarterback Ruby Johnson was allegedly attacked by a group of opposing players at a sports banquet the previous day.
According to The Associated Press, Johnson was attacked by Virginia State players in a bathroom on the Winston-Salem campus during a luncheon for the two teams.
In a statement, Winston-State Chancellor Donald Reaves said Johnson was “viciously beaten” and that one Virginia State player had admitted his role in the attack. An arrest warrant obtained by The Winston-Salem Journal identified the player as junior running back Lamont Darnell Britt, 22, and said Britt hit Johnson in the face and head.
“Today’s event was supposed to be a celebration for both teams and for all the players who were being recognized for an outstanding season,” Reaves said. “The actions from the Virginia State players certainly changed the outcome for everyone.”
The incident occurred near the end of the luncheon. A Winston-Salem player who asked not to be identified told the Journal that the incident was an attack, not a fight. “They decided to go in there and try and hurt Rudy,” the player said.
“Their players jumped our starting quarterback, Rudy Johnson, and swelled up his eye and busted up his lip and some other things,” Winston-Salem coach Connell Maynor told the newspaper. “And basically that’s what happened, and for the safety of the players and everybody else, they are canceling the game.”
Virginia State University athletic officials did not return calls for comment by the AP. In a statement on its website, the school acknowledged the incident but declined further comment.
“Virginia State University is aware of an incident involving student-athletes from Winston Salem State and Virginia State Universities,” the school said in a statement. “VSU officials are fully cooperating with the CIAA in their investigation, and as a result, will not be able to comment any further.”
A conference volleyball championship between the two schools which was also set for the same weekend was cancelled as well, the CIAA said.
“We did not make this decision lightly, as its impact is far and wide – affecting our student-athletes, alumni, fans, sponsors and more,” CIAA Commissioner Jacqie Carpeneter said in a statement. “But the CIAA has long had policies to encourage responsible behavior, and must consider what is necessary to assure days like today are not repeated, ever.
Johnson was 9-0 as Winston-Salem’s starting quarterback since taking over in the second game of the season; the university was attempting to become the first team in two decades to win three straight CIAA championships. Winston-Salem lost the NCAA Division II championship game last year, and was seen as a leading contender for this year’s title, according to the AP. They had not faced Virginia State since 2003.