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AFA tape shows coach-player incident

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — A videotape of Air Force quarterback Chance Harridge punching Northwestern assistant coach Jay Peterson appears to show Peterson's elbow striking Harridge in the neck as Peterson reaches to hug a Northwestern player after a fumble recovery.

Air Force released a copy of the tape on Tuesday in response to a Freedom of Information request from The Associated Press. Air Force made the tape for coach Fisher DeBerry's weekly highlight show.

Harridge was ejected in the third quarter of Air Force's 22-21 victory on Sept. 6 when he punched Peterson after fumbling near the sideline. The tape shows Peterson and Harridge on the field after the play was whistled over.

Air Force athletic director Col. Randy Spetman has said the tape shows Harridge's punch was an instinctive reaction after Peterson's left arm struck him.

Northwestern Athletic Director Mark Murphy said Peterson didn't intend to strike Harridge.

"It was the coach celebrating with his player," he said.

Harridge was called for a flagrant personal foul and Northwestern was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. Air Force says Harridge is eligible to play Saturday when the Falcons entertain North Texas.

Air Force spokesman Troy Garnhart told The Gazette of Colorado Springs that Peterson's action was "inappropriate" and that copies of the tape had been sent to officials of the Mountain West and Big 10 conferences and to Northwestern.

"We feel we have to protect our player," he said.

Northwestern's Murphy said university officials reviewed the tape and concluded Peterson meant no harm.

"There was no intent by one of our assistant coaches to strike the Air Force quarterback," he said.

"The lesson we've learned from this is for our coaches and players to stay in the sideline box in order to prevent similar situations from arising again. It's unfortunate that this incident is overshadowing what was an exciting game played between two football teams," he said.

DeBerry refused to discuss the incident.

"I said yesterday it was behind us. I'm focusing on one thing — that's our upcoming game and taking care of our homework," he said.