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Idaho football player Dezmon Epps identified in VandalStore video

Star receiver was allowed to play in season opener despite incident at VandalStore

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 11, 2015

Idaho receiver Dezmon Epps, with coach Paul Petrino in the background, left. (Tyler Tjomsland)
Idaho receiver Dezmon Epps, with coach Paul Petrino in the background, left. (Tyler Tjomsland)

Security video footage from the VandalStore on the University of Idaho campus shows star Vandals receiver Dezmon Epps and several teammates stealing merchandise from the store, according to a university statement.

Epps is considered to be the best talent on the team. He was dismissed from the team prior to the 2014 season for what was termed a “violation of team rules” but reinstated during practices the following spring. The dismissal occurred shortly after he was charged with theft.

The video allegedly clarifies an Aug. 16 incident in which $285 worth of merchandise was stolen from the campus store during a time when the store was open only to members of the football team.

Also visible in the video is cornerback Isaiah Taylor, who is no longer with the team.

The statement identifies the players as Epps and Taylor and says that the university held off on releasing video and player identities until the Office of General Counsel signaled that there were no potential violations of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

The Spokesman-Review contacted UI athletic director Rob Spear and school president Chuck Staben, neither of whom immediately returned comment.

VandalStore director John Bales declined to press charges after the incident. Store manager Scott McDonald told police he could not recall the identities of the players involved. Idaho head coach Paul Petrino returned the stolen merchandise later that day after he was made aware of the thefts and said that the team would handle discipline internally.

Epps was dismissed from the team in late July of 2014, shortly after he was charged with stealing $37.72 worth of groceries from WinCo Foods. In April of that year, Epps was also charged with misdemeanor DUI.

After the second incident, Vandals coach Paul Petrino issued a statement saying that the matter would “be handled swiftly and decisively,” adding, “Our student-athletes will understand that there will be discipline in our program. They will learn the responsibility they have in representing themselves, the football program, and the University of Idaho in the right manner. We will hold our student-athlete’s accountable for their actions at all times as character and integrity will always be a priority in our program.”

Epps was sentenced to two days in jail earlier this year for driving without an interlock device that was required by the court following his DUI.

In 2013, Epps led the Vandals with 79 receptions for 980 yards and four touchdowns. No other Vandals receiver had more than 36 catches.

Epps played in Idaho’s first game of the season, a 45-28 loss to Ohio on Sept. 3, even though the thefts occurred weeks prior to kickoff. Epps caught 15 passes for 160 yards in the loss, accounting for more than half of UI’s total receiving yards.

On Friday, the Idaho athletic department released a statement from Petrino:

“Dezmon Epps and Isaiah Taylor made a serious error in judgment on August 16. Their behavior was not acceptable and completely contradictory to what our team and coaches stand for. We took immediate disciplinary action in addition to imposing strict daily behavioral requirements for them to meet. Additionally, the Dean of Students office, which handles student discipline under the Code of Conduct, was informed. Records regarding this process are protected under FERPA.

“Isaiah chose not to comply with our requirements and is no longer on the football team. Dezmon thus far has met our requirements and has complied with the sanctions we imposed. As long as he continues to abide by these requirements, there is a place for him in the Vandal family.

“As the head football coach, I am responsible for leading and preparing these young men to deal with adversity and challenges on and off the field. As much as my coaching staff and I work hard with our players to achieve success together as a football team, we also spend considerable time and energy helping them to learn the skills necessary to live meaningful and productive lives after football. Part of my responsibility to our players is to call them out when they make mistakes, hold them accountable, and help them to learn and move forward as people who are equipped to make good choices. I have done that throughout my coaching career.”

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