Illinois Drops Jailed Football Players From Team

Lovie Smith at the podium.

Illini football coach Lovie Smith, talking to reporters in August, 2016. Smith made the decision to remove three players from his team, after they were arrested on burglary and robbery charges.

Vashoune Russell for Illinois Public Media

Illinois football coach Lovie Smith kicked three players charged with felony residential burglary and aggravated robbery off of the team on Wednesday.

Illinois Sports Information Director Kent Brown said Smith decided “several days ago” to remove Darta Lee and Howard Watkins, both 18, and 19-year-old Zarrian Holcombe from the team.

“But I think he wanted to contact each of the players or their families” before announcing it, Brown said.

The three players were arrested May 10 and accused of entering another man’s dorm room on campus and robbing him with what he thought was a gun but authorities say was a BB gun.

Prosecutors say Lee, Holcombe and Watkins described the incident as a prank.

Lee, Holcombe and Watkins have pleaded not guilty. All remained at the Champaign County Jail on Wednesday.

Brown was not sure whether the men are still enrolled at the university.

Lee is an offensive lineman from Fresno, Texas, and Holcombe is a tight end from Houston. Both would be sophomores this fall and played in a combined 13 games as freshmen. Watkins is an offensive lineman from Cincinnati and is a freshman who enrolled in January.

Story source: WILL