FARGO (AP) - Eight North Dakota State University football players, including four starters, will remain on the roster while criminal charges against them for forging signatures on ballot initiative petitions are resolved, their coach said Tuesday.
The players were hired to gather signatures for two citizen initiatives, one to set up a state conservation fund and the other to make marijuana legal for medical treatments.
North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger said the alleged fraud made both initiatives ineligible for a statewide vote in November.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said 11 people have been charged in the case, including the eight players for the defending Football Championship Subdivision champions. Four are starters - running back Samuel Ojuri, defensive backs Marcus Williams and Brendin Pierre, and offensive lineman Josh Colville. Backup defensive backs Bryan Shepherd and Aireal Boyd, reserve middle linebacker Antonio Rodgers and Demitrius Gray, a freshman wide receiver, also face charges. Gray is a redshirt and does not travel with the team.
Bison coach Craig Bohl said the players will be eligible to play this weekend against Colorado State and he didn't expect the charges to be a distraction to the team.
"I think they are very fully aware of their situation and thus far they've been very focused," Bohl said. He said any team discipline will be decided after the legal proceedings end.
Bohl removed backup linebacker Brandon Jemison from the team two weeks ago after Jemison was charged with indecent exposure.
NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor said the school takes all charges seriously, but he did not believe the latest case warranted immediate discipline.
"In terms of other issues across the country that student-athletes get in trouble for, this doesn't rank to the level where I think they need to be suspended for a certain amount of time," he said.