Austin Barnes, East Carolina University's football punter, has been suspended today indefinitely from all team activities due to an alcohol-related arrest Saturday night following the Pirates’ 48-20 victory over Cincinnati.
ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery made the decision to suspend Barnes indefinitely came just moments after the coaches were made aware of the incident.
"Representing East Carolina University is a privilege and any behavior that's not in accordance with that is unacceptable," Montgomery said, according to a press release from ECU athletics. "We have conduct standards and expectations in place for our program for a reason and it's disappointing when individuals choose not to be accountable for their teammates, especially those who are perceived to be in leadership roles."
The graduate transfer from Eastern Michigan has been a bright spot all season for a struggling ECU team (3-8; 2-5 AAC). Barnes ranks 19th nationally with an average of 44.0 yards per kick. His ability to pin teams deep in their own territory has lifted a burden of a Pirates' defense that has struggled through most of the season.
With just one game to go in the season, a road contest at No. 17 ranked Memphis University (9-1; 6-1 AAC), Montgomery announced that either junior Caleb Pratt or sophomore Jake Verity would take over Barnes' duties. Verity has been another anchor in the special teams unit for ECU, making 16-23 field goals and going perfect, 34-34, on extra points. Pratt has been ECU's kickoff specialist, forcing 39 touchbacks on 58 kicks.
While losing Barnes won't be the toughest task the Pirates face on Saturday down in Memphis, it will certainly be an obstacle tough to overcome. Barnes has constantly turned a bad ECU offensive drive into great defensive position for the Pirates, and now they'll be forced to start a new punter for the first time this season. Saturday's kickoff is scheduled for noon and can be seen on ESPNU.