PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In the fall of 2013 Vernon Adams had a lot on his plate. As quarterback for the Eastern Washington University Eagles he would go on to win the National Performer of the Year from the Football Championship Performance Awards. That same season, he would also be the runner-up for the Walter Payton award, which is often referred to as the Heisman Trophy for the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Adams started all 15 games at quarterback in the 2013 season on his way to being selected first team All-America. Adams was also about to learn he was going to become father.
KOIN 6 News has learned Adams also had a run-in with police that has not been publicly disclosed until now.
On October 25, 2013 — the day before Adams would take on the University of Montana and throw for 457 yards and six touchdowns — a prosecutor in Pullman, Washington charged Adams with minor in possession and/or consumption of alcohol. It is a gross misdemeanor.
The incident with police actually happened two months earlier. According to court records, Adams was in Pullman on August 17, 2013, when police wrote him a citation. Adams was never booked into jail, but he faced a season where he also dealt with the court system.
Eastern had its sights set on winning a national championship. They had good reason for lofty goals. Two weeks after the run-in with police, Adams made a game-winning touchdown run that handed Oregon State an embarrassing loss to the lower division Eagles. The play made Adams a finalist for the Geico Play of the Year. Weeks went by, and the Eagles prepared to play their eighth game of the season against the University of Montana. The day before that game, October 25, the Whitman County Prosecutor filed the charge against Adams, who was 20 years old.
The case was set for arraignment on November 1. Adams hired Spokane defense attorney, Christian J. Phelps. The Whitman County Court Administrator told KOIN 6 News, Phelps filed a ‘not guilty’ plea on Adams’ behalf and the quarterback did not have to appear in court. Adams’ case was set for a pretrial hearing December 13. That is the day before Adams led the Eagles to a playoff victory that put his team into the FCS national championship semi-final game. That court hearing was canceled and postponed until February of 2014. By then the season was concluded. Whitman County Deputy Prosecutor Merritt Decker made a deal with Adams called a contract for dismissal. Decker says it is a common agreement used by prosecutors in cases like Adams’.
Decker says the quarterback agreed to pay a $500 fine and stay out of trouble for six months. In exchange, the charges would be dismissed. In August of 2014 – a year after Adams’ got the citation – the case was dismissed.
The case played out without coming to reporters attention. At practice Saturday, Adams former coach at Eastern acknowledged he knew about the arrest.
“We handled that within our team, and moved on from it,” he said. “It’s one of those things, now he’s a former player, so I’m definitely not talking about former players and anything from years past. But yes, we handled it at the time with discipline and moved on.”
The charge of minor in possession is not serious, but the question lingers: could it have influenced voters who gave Adams all those post-season awards. A spokesman for Stats, (formerly The Sports Network) which hands out the Walter Payton award, said he had never heard of Adams court case.
“I think public knowledge of criminal cases factor into many voters’ decision when they cast a ballot,” wrote Craig Haley, in an email in response to the question of whether public knowledge of the minor in possession case would have impacted his candidacy.
A spokesman for the Big Sky Conference says there is not a citizenship or morality requirement to be named the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year, as Adams was in 2013.
Brad Smith, who is a spokesman for College Football Performance Player of the Year Award, says the honor is based “purely on performance on the field.”
The arrest did not influence Oregon’s decision to bring Adams on.
“This information had no impact on his transfer to the University of Oregon,” wrote Craig Pintens, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Oregon, in an email. On question of whether Oregon knew about Adams’ arrest, he replied, “We do not provide information on our proprietary background and character reports of individual football student-athletes.”
Adams has already faced questions about his decision to transfer to Oregon. In February, Eastern’s head coach told ESPN 700 in Spokane he barred Adams from working out with the team and using Eastern’s training facilities to prepare for his season at Oregon. In a twist of fate, Eastern’s first opponent this year is the Ducks. Baldwin was frustrated with the NCAA rule which allows a player who completes a four year degree, to transfer to another school to finish a remaining year of football eligibility without sitting out a year. Baldwin questioned Oregon’s tactics.
“It’s not what the rule is intended for, and when you’re Oregon and we’ve gotten a guy that we recruited when no one else was … ultimately we feel like, you know what, we were also the ones who developed him from a level where obviously out of high school he wasn’t at that level,” Baldwin said. “When you’re Oregon and over the last three or four years you’re not recruiting a number of guys that can fill in when Marcus (Mariota) leaves, I’m kind of asking the question — I’m flattered, I guess — but what are we doing over there?
The saga took another turn when Adams did not graduate from Eastern in June. He had to retake a math class over the summer, and some questioned his ability to lead his new team. The Ducks began fall camp without Adams at practice. “VernonAdamsWatch” became a social media trend. Fans waited to find out whether Adams passed. Adams posted to Twitter on the evening of August 13: “Thank God.” He was finally eligible to join the Ducks at practice after missing several days of training camp.
Next Saturday, Adams is likely to start against his former team.