A Virginia Tech student conduct committee has dismissed running back Michael Holmes from school after he was found guilty of misdemeanor assault and battery last month.
The decision from the Virginia Tech student conduct office came a month ago, according to athletic director Jim Weaver, who was informed of it last week.
“He’s permanently separated from the university,” said Weaver, who was not privy to the student panel’s deliberations, which are private.
Holmes, 20, was arrested and charged with malicious wounding, a felony, and two counts of simple assault in connection with a fight that took place in a downtown parking lot on April 21, not long after the Hokies’ spring game. He was found guilty of a lesser charge of misdemeanor assault and battery in court last month.
School policy mandates an automatic suspension for felonies, but with the charge reduced to a misdemeanor, it could have paved the way for Holmes’ reinstatement to the team. That decision would have been made by Weaver.
But it didn’t get that far. The student conduct office has a higher authority, able to decide whether someone is allowed to be a student at Virginia Tech if a violation of of the school’s conduct code takes place on university property.
It allows students charged with conduct code violations a hearing before a faculty administrator or a committee of students. According to the Virginia Tech student conduct website, that group can “sanction someone for anything ranging from a formal warning to permanent dismissal.”
Mark Owczarski, Assistant Vice President for News and Information at Virginia Tech, said the school’s student conduct system has been in place for decades and hears hundreds of cases each year. Cases go before the committee for a numerous reasons, from a police report to students making a claim through a faculty member.
“When you are admitted, you agree to abide by the code of student conduct,” Owczarski said.
Owczarski didn’t have a figure for what percentage of those hearing results in permanent dismissals from the school, although it has rarely happened with athletes in recent years.
Holmes was unable to be reached for comment. His mother, Tonya Brandon, declined comment about her son’s future, saying it was a private matter.
In court last month, Holmes received a 12-month suspended sentence and was ordered to pay $13,403 in restitution to one of the victims in the fight, which began between Holmes’ current girlfriend and ex-girlfriend.
Holmes joined the fight to come to his girlfriend’s aid but was charged with malicious wounding for the damage he inflicted on Antoine Barnes, a cousin of one of the girls involved.
According to witnesses, Holmes hit Barnes and continued to strike him once he was on the ground. Barnes suffered a broken cheekbone, bruised ribs and swollen eyes, which required a trip to the hospital.
“Holmes was justified in coming to the defense of [his girlfriend],” Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettitt wrote in a statement released following the court’s decision. “However he exceeded his right to come to her defense when he continued to hit Barnes after he was no longer attacking anyone.”
Richard Barnes, the father of Kierra Barnes and uncle of Antoine Barnes, claims Holmes hit his daughter in the face, an allegation the running back denied. Kierra Barnes filed a civil suit against Holmes for $25,000 to cover costs from a broken nose.
“I don’t think he should ever be allowed to play football again,” Richard Barnes said after June’s court appearance. “He should have gotten more. He’s a danger to society. He’s done it once. He’ll do it again.”
Holmes, who many considered a breakout candidate in 2012, ran for only 280 yards and four touchdowns during his redshirt freshman season.
But coaches were pleased with his performance in the spring. Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler praised his consistency. Running backs coach Shane Beamer said Holmes got his “swag back.”
In his absence, the competition for the starting job will come down to sophomore J.C. Coleman and redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds, who finished the spring along with Holmes atop the depth chart. Senior Tony Gregory could also factor in.
Coleman, from Chesapeake, led all Hokies running backs last year with 492 yards last year, the lowest total for Virginia Tech’s No. 1 running back since Terry Smoot ran for 356 yards in 1967. Questions remain if the 5-foot-8, 177-pound Coleman can take the beating of an everydown back.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Edmunds, a Parade All-American out of Dan River High, redshirted last year but impressed in an expanded role this spring, showing some hard-nosed running that could make him the workhorse back Tech has sought since Darren Evans, Ryan Williams and David Wilson were with the program.