|Photos by The Winston-Salem Journal|
But that's exactly what happened. And it has resulted in the unprecedented cancellation of an entire championship game weekend.
Johnson was beaten up in the bathroom during a pre-championship game awards luncheon by a group of Virginia State players. One player, VSU running back Lamont Britt, has been arrested and faces charges of misdemeanor assault and inflicting serious injury. He was being held in jail with a bond set at $7,500. His court date is Dec. 9.
A swollen and bloody Johnson was taken to a local hospital where he was treated and released.
“Rudy’s fine, and he’s keeping ice on it, so the swelling will go down,” WSSU head coach Connell Maynor told the Winston-Salem Journal. “The team is upset, and they are in shock, and they wanted to play the game. I couldn’t guarantee that I could keep all 55 of my guys in check for the game, and all it would take would be one comment or something like that. So no coach could guarantee that.”
That's why CIAA officials cancelled today's huge football conference championship game between Virginia State and host Winston-Salem State and the CIAA volleyball championships, also to be held at WSSU this weekend, after the Friday altercation.
"On the eve of such an important weekend for dozens of our student-athletes, many of whom have waited a lifetime for such a moment, we are left to focus instead on what might have been," said CIAA Commissioner Jacqie Carpenter.
"Our singular focus is on the safety and security of the CIAA's student-athletes and those who follow them," she said. "It is important that everyone involved in the CIAA embody our mission every day by acting as upstanding individuals on and off the field. We must work together to hold each other to higher standards of responsible judgment and conduct because we must demand that if we are to succeed.
"We did not make this decision lightly, as its impact is far and wide - affecting our student-athletes, alumni, fans, sponsors and more. 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."
Virginia State officials, who still had ticket information for the game up on their website Saturday morning, have been tight-lipped about the situation.
"Virginia State University is aware of an incident involving student-athletes from Winston Salem State and Virginia State Universities," the school said in a statment on their athletic department website. "VSU officials are fully cooperating with the CIAA in their investigation, and as a result, will not be able to comment any further.
"In light of the incident, the CIAA has cancelled the Championship Football game. We ask that any inquiries regarding the game should be directed to the CIAA."
But there is no question about what happened in the mind of WSSU Chancellor Donald Reaves
"I am saddened to report that at [Friday's] CIAA pre-championship game luncheon held at the Anderson Center of the WSSU campus that our starting quarterback, Rudy Johnson, was viciously beaten by one or more members of the Virginia State football team," Reaves said in a statement.
"There is no excuse for the behavior of the Virginia State players," he said. "One suspect has admitted to his role in the attack and has been arrest on criminal assault charges. The University Police Department is attempting to identify the other VSU players who were involved. 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. The actions from the Virginia State players certainly changed the outcome for everyone."