SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Missouri State head football coach Dave Steckel said Monday that quarterback Breck Ruddick is suspended for the remainder of 2016 for punching and breaking the jaw of a dog that he was watching for a neighbor. Ruddick could still face other consequences from the university's office of student conduct and from the City of Springfield.
The Springfield - Greene County Health Department's Division of Animal Control cited Ruddick after an initial investigation of animal abuse claims. He was ticketed for animal cruelty and dog at large; both could result in prosecution in Municipal Court but the city prosecutor's office is still deciding whether to file charges, as it does with all citations.
Carl Yendes, chief prosecutor for the City of Springfield, hopes to make a decision this week. If convicted, Ruddick could receive a fine up to $1,000 and/or a jail sentence up to six months for both animal cruelty and dog at large.
The university is still investigating the case to see whether Ruddick should face consequences for possibly violating rules of student conduct. A few days after the initial suspension from the team, the university said the office of student conduct was coordinating the investigation and would turn findings over to the Athletics department for team discipline, and then would begin university disciplinary action, if appropriate. Administrators at the time called the investigation a top priority for MSU and the football team and said it would be "prompt, thorough and fair."
Steckel said Ruddick will be eligible to return next season as long as he meets stringent guidelines set by Steckel, who described it as a contract between him and the athlete. Ruddick is still on full scholarship.
Steckel said he forgives Ruddick but the conduct was wrong and requires punishment.
"The Bible says God disciplines all his children. I am not God, I do not pretend to be that, but we have to have instill discipline on our football team. His actions were wrong and he has to be held accountable for them," said Steckel.
The coach said he loves Ruddick, as he does all his players, and he is still a member of the team.
Steckel suspended Ruddick from the team on Sept. 23, the day prior to the team's game against Kansas State University, as allegations of dog abuse arose on social media. Athletic department officials found out about the dog's injuries, which occurred about four days previous, after the team had left for Manhattan, Kan.
Ruddick's neighbor says he hurt her Australian Shepherd Luca. She says Ruddick was watching her dog and shattered its jaw.
An incident report released by the Health Department said Ruddick admitted to beating the dog, according to text messages received by the dog's owner. Additionally, the report said the dog required surgery at a cost of $1,500 for its injuries.
Ruddick's attorney said in the days after the initial report that his client received death threats. He also said a Facebook post by a friend of the dog's owner had "numerous inaccuracies and untruths." An online petition calling for Steckel to permanently remove Ruddick from the team has thousands of signatures.