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Failing grade

Harris, Purdue's leading rusher in '02, ruled ineligible

Posted: Thursday August 14, 2003 12:20 PM
Updated: Thursday August 14, 2003 6:25 PM

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) -- Purdue running back Joey Harris, the team's leading rusher last year, was ruled academically ineligible for his senior season.

Harris ran for more than 1,100 yards last season and was expected to head a deep corps of tailbacks again this season. He needed to average a B in three summer school classes to remain eligible.

"That's a tragic loss to our team, first and foremost, because we had about a hundred other guys counting on him and he didn't measure up," coach Joe Tiller said at a media day news conference. "No. 2, it's a tragic thing for him ... he is not in school, so for all intents and purposes, at least at the NCAA level, his collegiate career is over."

Harris, who started two of 12 games in 2001, received a team award as the most improved player last year, when he rushed for 1,115 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 12 passes for 185 yards and one TD. He also rushed for at least 100 yards six times, second only to Mike Alstott's Purdue-record nine 100-yard games in 1995.

Harris also set a Purdue bowl-game record with 93 yards rushing and scored one touchdown in a 34-24 victory over Washington in the Sun Bowl.

"Obviously, we've lost a talent there, but we feel very good about the guys are playing that position," Tiller said. "We think all three have the ability to play and win in the Big Ten."

Sophomore Brandon Jones, who rushed for almost 700 yards last year, will likely replace Harris, with sophomore Jerod Void and redshirt freshman Jerome Brooks as the backups in the Boilermakers' one-back offense. Void had 156 yards and rushed for a team-high 10 touchdowns last year.

"Obviously, Joey's departure leaves a big hole at running back, because he was going to be a key contributor for us this fall," Jones said. "But we feel as running backs we're very capable of picking up the slack and, hopefully, duplicating last season's success in the running game."

Purdue (7-6, 4-4 Big Ten) led the conference in total offense and was fourth in rushing.

Tiller broke the news about Harris to the players at a team meeting Wednesday night.

"Not everybody is over the initial disappointment," Jones said. "Obviously, we'd love to have Joey back this year, but things didn't happen that way. We just have to get over it and move on."

Quarterback Kyle Orton called Harris "a great guy, a great friend, a great teammate to have around the locker room. He just didn't get it done in the classroom, obviously."

Harris did not attend the team's media day event.

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