CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Chris Early had to earn his way back into the starting lineup earlier this season.
Now the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga forward has to earn his way back onto the team.
Mocs' head coach John Shulman suspended Early indefinitely Friday night for conduct detrimental to the team. Early made at least six disparaging remarks on his Twitter page about Shulman over a five-day span in November.
The UTC athletics department has a social media policy prohibiting negative comments directed towards fellow players, coaches or UTC officials.
On November 20, Early sent out a tweet that read, "I hate this man with a passion, each and every day I have to see him I become more and more miserable."
The next day he wrote, "we play for the worst coach in america (high school nd middle school) included!"
Shulman said he learned of the comments as the team bus pulled into Lexington Friday afternoon ahead of Saturday night's game at No. 3 Kentucky. He said Early will be heading home from there to Huntington, West Va., and will miss at least the Mocs' games at Kentucky and next Wednesday against Hiawassee.
"I'm not upset about what he said, but you have to keep that to yourself," Shulman said in a phone conversation Friday night. "Every player gets into it with his coach and doesn't like his coach at sometime.
"But rules are rules. You keep that to yourself and you keep that within the team. Consequences have to be paid when you make a mistake, and Chris made a mistake."
Shulman said Early was forthcoming about the comments, and admitted he acted emotionally.
Early's tweets were initially discovered by Kentucky Sports Radio (click here to view link -- CAUTION one tweet contains an obscenity).
His first comment about Shulman, which read "My coach throws a temper tantrum at least 3 times a week," came on November 19 after the Mocs lost to Kennesaw State 65-59 the previous night.
Shulman told reporters after the loss there would be a lineup shuffle, and Early was subsequently benched in favor of walk-on Drew Baker for the next two games against Warren Wilson and Savannah State.
It was during this time that Early published the remainder of his comments through his protected Twitter page.
"He was going through a tough time. We put Drew in the lineup and Chris was far down the bench, so he was emotional and upset, so I'm not condemning him," Shulman said. "But he's going to pay a price. I'm just not sure of the extent of that price just yet."
The Mocs (3-7) will also pay the price for Early's mistake.
The 6-foot-7 forward has played in all ten games this season, including eight starts. He ranks fifth on the team in scoring at 7.4 points per game and second in rebounding at six rebounds per contest.
Another of Early's tweets read, "Dec. 17th we're going to get smacked," referring to UTC's game at Kentucky.
Shulman said Early had several family members and friends set to make the trip to Lexington on Saturday from nearby Huntington.
"The thing that's sad is we had an unbelievable night at Rupp tonight, and he didn't get to be a part of it," Shulman said. "It's going to be a great atmosphere and a great experience tomorrow night, and he's going to miss out on something basketball guys would love to tell their kids about.
"It's a tough situation for him and he was apologetic. He just messed up."
He's the first player Shulman has had to discipline for violating the school's social media policy, but he's not the first Southern Conference player to run into trouble on Twitter. Elon senior running back Jamal Shuman was suspended indefinitely in November after openly complaining about his playing time and his head coach. He was never reinstated.
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