UCLA middle linebacker Donnie Edwards has been suspended by the NCAA for one game and ordered to make restitution for the $150 worth of groceries that he says were left at his apartment without his knowledge in two separate incidents. Edwards will sit out Saturday's game against Arizona.
The NCAA and the Pacific 10 Conference were brought into the investigation because of allegations that the food came from sports agent Robert Troy Caron, violating NCAA rules. A memo obtained by The Times, and allegedly written by Caron, showed an expenditure of $150 for food next to Edwards' name. Edwards has admitted knowing Caron.
"First of all," Edwards said in a prepared statement Thursday, "I want to state that, at no time did I knowingly violate NCAA rules. I am well aware of the NCAA rules pertaining to agents. I also want everyone to understand that I never took any money of any kind from any agent or anyone connected with an agent."
Of the groceries, Edwards said, "One time, they were on my doorstep; one time they were already put away by my roommates. There was no note with the groceries and I had no idea where they came from.
"One of the occasions was shortly after I did a radio interview and talked about how hard it is for student-athletes to buy enough food under the current scholarship system, and because we can't work during the year.
"Again, I want to stress that I feel I did not do anything wrong."
However, NCAA officials thought the evidence was compelling enough to prove a link between Caron and Edwards.
Edwards says the two weeks since the investigation was made public have been difficult.
"It's very disappointing having my name being associated with this," he said. "People start speculating and making their own assumptions on a memo. But they have no idea what's going on. . . . There was a lot of jokes and a lot of negative stuff."
Edwards suffered a compression fracture of the vertebrae in a Sept. 16 game against Oregon and sat out the next two games.
Last week he began running in practice. And on Tuesday, he was medically cleared to play on Saturday.
A suspension does not go into effect until the player is declared fit to play.
Edwards said he plans to give the $150 to a charity, which he has not yet designated, and then return for the final five games of his senior season, beginning with Stanford on Oct. 21.
Times staff writer Elliot Almond contributed to this story.