Running back cut after refusing punishment on medical grounds
Story by Sarah Combs, Sports Editor
A confrontational encounter with a coach led to running back Mark Dodson being released from the football program in mid-February. Dodson said Head Coach Mitch Stewart sent out an email saying he quit.
“I never did quit, he (Stewart) cut me off the team,” Dodson said.
Dodson said the incident began with the team’s accountability point system, which punishes players for missing class. After one of Dodson’s teammates failed to show up for class, the whole team was given “rolls,” wherein players literally roll across the entirety of the football field. This time, though, the players were told to roll for 600 yards.
Dodson sought out an alternative punishment for medical reasons, having been treated for migraines since at least early 2016. Medical records provided to The Murray State News show he was been on a daily medication for migraines. Dodson said the athletic trainers were aware of his medical condition.
Running back coach Sean Dawkins reportedly said they would discuss it the following day.
On Feb. 15, Dodson showed up for practice at 5:30 a.m. ready to carry out the new punishment he had hoped was coming. However, Dodson said Dawkins refused to give a different punishment. Instead, an on-field confrontation erupted between the two.
Dodson said Dawkins got aggressive and told him to leave after he asked once again for an alternative punishment. Dodson walked away, hoping not to escalate the situation. It didn’t work. A source who wished to remain anonymous witnessed the incident and confirmed the story.
After Dodson walked away, he said Dawkins followed him into the entrance hallway, provoking him with vulgar language as he went. From this point on, the pair were alone, with no other witnesses.
Dodson said his former coach took it one step further. Dawkins reportedly began poking Dodson in the head and repeating, “Hit me.”
“He said I hadn’t done anything for the university,” Dodson said. “(He) told me I was soft, weak.”
Dawkins then allegedly got up “in my (Dodson’s) face saying, ‘What are you gonna do.’”
This was when Dodson broke. The pair reportedly began swapping vulgarities, though Dodson said it was only after his coach’s provocation.
Dodson said another coach came and pulled Dawkins away from him to break up the incident.
The next morning, Dawkins reached out to Dodson via phone call, but Dodson said he didn’t have anything to say to him. Dodson said he ignored texts he received from Dawkins later that morning.
Dodson returned the following day to “make things right” with Stewart.
Instead of an apology, Stewart greeted Dodson with an ultimatum: do double the “rolling” or he was off the team.
“What makes you different from the team that you need an alternate punishment?” Dodson said Stewart asked him.
Reportedly, Stewart said medication wasn’t a legitimate reason not to do the punishment and he hadn’t contributed enough to the team to deserve special treatment.
Dodson told Stewart “by no means” was he trying to put himself over the team.
“I’m all about team and accountability,” Dodson said.
Dodson said he reminded Stewart he was on medication for a documented medical condition that both the coaching staff and the trainers were aware of.
“I don’t have an alternate for you Dodson,” Stewart told him.
“I’m not gonna put myself in that situation,” Dodson said to Stewart. “I know the pain I’m gonna be in after 600 yards of rolling.”
Stewart addressed the confrontation between Dodson and his running back coach, reportedly telling Dodson he has to “be OK with it because Coach Dawkins was going through some things.”
When Dodson refused to complete the double rolls, Stewart told him coaches were already cleaning out his locker.
“When he told me, tears just dropped down,” Dodson said. “I just couldn’t believe it.”
Dodson said he walked into the locker room to see his locker completely empty with a black garbage bag containing all of his things.
Dodson has filed a complaint against Dawkins and Stewart with the office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Access and the NCAA compliance officer.
“I did everything they asked me to do,” Dodson said. “I have never been in trouble on or off the field while I’ve been here.”
Dodson said he has recruited for the team and even hosted potential players, promoting Murray State. Yet, he said all of that has changed.
“This felt like home,” he said. “I did everything right.”
Dodson said he still wants to play football, but he can’t trust Dawkins or Stewart anymore.
“I can’t trust them no more [sic],” Dodson said.
He plans to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. As for his football career, he still has eligibility remaining since he redshirted last season after sustaining a season-ending injury to his foot.
“I’m getting in contact with a couple of schools,” Dodson said, in reference to his eligibility.
Dodson says he just wants to play football.
The News reached out to university officials but was told they could not comment on “personnel matters.”
CORRECTION: A Racer football player was incorrectly mentioned in the original story for having a medical issue due to the ‘rolling’ punishment. The News was told his medical issue and the punishment were unrelated. His name and mention of the incident have been retracted.