Eight Players Suspended; College Team Will Forfeit : Basketball: Left with only three players, Middle Tennessee State coach calls off tonight's Ohio Valley Conference game.

From Associated Press

Injuries and the suspension of eight players have forced Middle Tennessee State University to forfeit tonight's Ohio Valley Conference game to Tennessee State, MTSU Coach Bruce Stewart said.

The eight Middle Tennessee State players were suspended Friday by conference Commissioner Dan Beebe for a bench-clearing brawl with Tennessee Tech last week in Murfreesboro.

Injuries to Kevin Snell and Gerald Harris left the Blue Raiders with only three players from the 12-man team to play Tennessee State at Gentry Center.

While Beebe gave Middle Tennessee State the option to immediately bench four of his suspended players over the next three games and then suspend the remaining players, Stewart said he'd rather forfeit a game now.

"We exercised the option to sit out all of the suspended players at once and return our team to a whole unit as quickly as possible," Stewart said. "We will not drag out the suspensions."

Stewart apologized Sunday night to TSU and to fans from both teams.

He said that he and his staff had checked the campus for athletes and found a few from the football team. With administration offices closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Stewart said he could not have them certified by tonight.

TSU Coach Ron Abernathy, though, is not happy with the automatic conference win. "We've lost people right and left, but we've shown up for every game. When I first heard about this I thought it was a joke."

Abernathy said the Ohio Valley Conference should force MTSU to forfeit the rest of its conference games.

Tennessee Tech, which had six players suspended, played Saturday night and defeated Tennessee State 89-82.

Tennessee State's game with Middle Tennessee State is usually the school's biggest draw with as many as 10,000 tickets sold.

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