Eastern Michigan athletics director Scott Weatherbee issued a lengthy statement on Sunday afternoon, apologizing for the actions of some of his school’s players during a post-game brawl with South Alabama after Saturday’s 68 Ventures Bowl.
As they do every game, the South Alabama players lined up with cheerleaders facing the USA marching band in the stands to perform the school’s alma song after the Jaguars defeated the Eagles 59-10 at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Jamarrien Burt of South Alabama was hit in the back of the helmeted head by a defensive back from Eastern Michigan who was later identified as defensive back Korey Hernandez.
Burt’s elder brother, Brian Dillard of South Alabama, who was standing close to him, sprang on Hernandez and started pounding him. A number of additional Eagles and Jaguars players got involved in the altercation, with some trying to break it up and others throwing punches.
This is a video of the event that was posted on social media site X:Once everything was back in order, the on-site security ordered both teams to their locker rooms. The South Alabama squad returned to the field for the trophy and honors ceremony after the Eastern Michigan players had cleared it.Photo and video evidence recorded by fans later showed Hernandez’s bloodied face (he was not wearing a helmet when he started the fight) being led away by teammates. Hernandez is listed as a graduate student from Decatur, Ga., and a two-time Mid-American Athletic Conference All-Academic team selection.In the second quarter of the game, Dillard and Hernandez got into a fight after Dillard shoved Hernandez to the ground and Hernandez facemasked him on the South Alabama sideline during a punt return play. On the same play, though, Burt was called for an illegal blindside block (but Hernandez was tagged for a facemask; Dillard was not fined). This was against a different Eastern Michigan player.Weatherbee did not directly mention Hernandez when he stated on Sunday that the behavior of the EMU players was “completely unacceptable.” Declaring that his department’s members were “deeply upset and embarrassed,” he promised to look into the matter and “take appropriate action.”
We vehemently denounce the conduct of a few student-athletes from the EMU football team in the regrettable situation that transpired after the 68 Ventures Bowl last night. What transpired has left us feeling really angry and ashamed. Their behavior is not indicative of the high regard and pride we have for the sport and our program, nor of the standards we hold for student-athletes’ behavior both on and off the field. It was very unacceptable what transpired.We apologize to the Eastern Michigan University community and to the South Alabama team and their fans. I have been in contact with South Alabama Director of Athletics Joel Erdmann to express our sincere apologies and Coach Creighton has done the same with Coach Womack. We are committed to sharing information and video to fully understand all that occurred. As Coach Creighton stated in the postgame press conference, there is absolutely no place for this kind of incident in the Eastern Michigan University football program.“We are committed to cooperating to examine the situation in line with institutional and Conference regulations. University President James Smith and I have spoken with Mid-American Conference Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher. We are keeping an eye on the circumstances and the behavior of the concerned student-athletes, and when further information becomes available, we will take the necessary action.
“Jerry Silverstein and the City of Mobile have my deepest thanks and admiration for inviting us to take part in the 2023 68 Ventures Bowl. In front of our devoted supporters and the community, our student-athletes and coaches had an outstanding experience, and we are proud of them for earning the school’s first-ever bowl championship. It is a feat that will not be quickly forgotten”Although we are disappointed in the incident that happened after our team won, we appreciate that Eastern Michigan University’s leadership accepted responsibility for it, apologized to us, and promised to look into the matter thoroughly. We don’t think this event represents Eastern Michigan University’s or the football program’s ideals in any manner..
Both Dillard and Burt, who transferred from junior college and Oklahoma, respectively, are in their first seasons at South Alabama. Both are originally from Ocala, Florida. This season, Dillard, a sophomore, and Burt, a redshirt freshman, have combined for three tackles in 11 games.