Robert Barber will be allowed to return to the football team and to the classroom

Share story

Washington State defensive lineman Robert Barber has been granted a stay of his suspension and allowed to return to the classroom and football field as the Whitman County Superior Court fully reviews his petition against Washington State, Whitman County Judge David Frazier announced Wednesday morning in Colfax.

The stay ruling came in response to a petition filed by Barber and his attorney Stephen Graham asking the court to overturn the suspension imposed on Barber by WSU’s student conduct board for the assault he allegedly committed at a party in July that left another WSU student with a concussion.

Frazier heard arguments Wednesday morning from Barber’s Graham and WSU Attorney General Danielle Hess. Graham’s main argument centered on how WSU’s conduct board destroyed any record of questions Barber and his adviser, WSU Director of Football Operations Antonio Huffman proposed during Barber’s conduct board hearing on Sept. 13. Graham alleged that because WSU did not follow its  administrative procedures in destroying the questions and thus, the University Appeals Board did not have a complete record from which to make their decision on Barber’s appeal.

“We respect today’s decision by the Whitman County Superior Court and immediately will reinstate Robert Barber as a student at Washington State University in good academic standing. We look forward to a final decision by the court early next year,” WSU President Kirk Schulz said in a statement. “With his reinstatement as a student, the athletic department will determine Mr. Barber’s status as an active member of the Cougar football team.”

Barber was initially sanctioned with expulsion, but upon appeal, his sanction was later changed to a suspension.

The stay comes with the conditions that Barber cannot contact the victim, use drugs or go to parties where drugs and alcohol are present.

“It was a good morning and I think the court did right by him,” Graham said. “Robert goes to class tomorrow as an actual, full fledged student, none of this online (classes) second class, not-quite-a-Coug stature.”

Graham said the court will likely rule on Barber’s petition to have the conduct board’s sanction overturned around March, but until then, Barber can return to classes and football and get his degree as planned in December.

Barber and his supporters in the courtroom were all ecstatic about Frazier’s ruling.

“In my heart of hearts, we wouldn’t be here if the process was different. It all goes back to that,” said former WSU quarterback Jack Thompson, who was in Colfax for the hearing. “There’s no room for gloating, I feel bad for Robert, I feel bad for my school. Ultimately, all good will come out of this.”

Thompson was joined by about a dozen other Samoan community leaders who traveled to Colfax to support Barber on Wednesday.

Thompson said the mood at the hearing was “very solemn” and that Hess “comported herself very well, in my opinion. She was just on the other side.”

“I was impressed with Danielle Hess but was also impressed with Steve Graham. I’m happy for the process, it got heard when it needed to be heard,” Thompson said.

Arne Hedeen, a Barber supporter and WSU trustee who has advocated for change in WSU’s student conduct procedures, said WSU football coach Mike Leach talked to Barber on the phone shortly after the judge rendered his verdict.

“Robert’s stoic, he’s pleased. He just heard from coach Leach before he left the courtroom that he’s to report to practice today and he’s prepared to do what he has to do to graduate,” Hedeen said.