Utah CB Hatfield cleared to return to school, but not team
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Monday suspended cornerback Dominique Hatfield is ''going to be allowed to stay in school,'' but has not yet been cleared to return to the team.
School spokesperson Liz Abel, however, said Hatfield was never kicked out of school in the first place and remains on scholarship.
Hatfield's lawyer, Greg Skordas, was surprised by the university's statement and believed his client had been suspended from the university.
''If that's what they're saying, that's great. I'm not going to argue with them,'' Skordas said after a chuckle.
Hatfield was dismissed from the team last month after he was charged with aggravated robbery and theft. Those charges were dropped, but the investigation is ongoing. Hatfield was also charged with misdemeanor assault last week stemming from a fight during a party.
Skordas thought Hatfield was suspended from school and had lost his scholarship, but was thrilled with the news when informed by The Associated Press.
''My understanding doesn't matter because the school is the school,'' Skordas said. ''They're the ones that make the rules. Not me. I'm fine with that. That's great. That's the best news I've heard all day.
''I can't speak for Dominique. I assumed he was (suspended from school), but I'm obviously wrong.''
Whittingham didn't rule out Hatfield's return to roster, but indicated the legal issues would need to be resolved first.
''You never say never,'' Whittingham said about Hatfield returning to the team. ''Right now, there's been closure on the first incident with the legal process. The second thing that we were dealing with, the university has closure on it as far as he's going to be allowed to stay in school. The legal process is still running its course in that situation.
''From a football standpoint, we have to make sure everything's run its course and then we'll reevaluate after everything's been decided and had closure.''
Prosecutors recently dropped the aggravated robbery and theft charges, but Salt Lake District Attorney chief deputy Blake Nakamura said Monday the investigation is ongoing.
''With regard to our case, that matter is still pending,'' Nakamura said. ''We haven't made any final decisions on what we are going to file or re-file.''
Skordas said they had been working on Hatfield's return to school for a while and the university did its due diligence. It is unclear where the miscommunication came from and if the university looked into possible Student Code violations. The university declined to elaborate, citing privacy laws.
In regards to the robbery and theft case remaining open, Skordas said they are being patient.
''I give the district attorney the benefit of the doubt,'' Skordas said. ''If they think they're still working on a case, they should work it. We're hoping that they'll find the right answer and not charge him, but that's their call. Not ours.''
Hatfield was charged with misdemeanor assault last week stemming from a fight during a summer party. A man told police he was attacked by four or five people during a party on July 5 and identified Hatfield as one of the men, Salt Lake City detective Cody Lougy said last week.
According to court documents, the man said Hatfield was ''rolling marijuana into a blunt'' and he asked Hatfield to not smoke at the house because a number of university athletes were in attendance and could be drug tested. The man said Hatfield and others attacked him and caused multiple cuts to his face and nose, bruising around the eyes, shoulder and back. He was treated at the hospital.
A pretrial court date is set for Sept. 21.
''I sincerely hope that we're done with the district attorney's cases,'' Skordas, ''but they are not willing to commit one way or the other yet.''
Hatfield started 10 games last season and finished with 38 tackles, one interception and nine pass breakups. He was expected to remain a starter in 2015.
Whittingham released a statement two weeks ago that said he was ''relieved'' Hatfield had been exonerated of the robbery and theft charges, but that ''does not necessarily impact'' the disciplinary actions taken for his violation of team rules. The coach added there was the ''possibility of future reinstatement'' if he meets certain expectations.
Hatfield's role would depend on when, and if, he returns, Whittingham said Monday.
''If it was before camp ended, it'd be a very viable possibility that he could be back in the mix early in the season,'' Whittingham said. ''The longer it goes, the less likely it is that he'd be a factor this year for us.
''Now he does have a redshirt year, if in fact he's able to get reinstated and get everything worked through, we have that option, too.''