Deion Sanders asks for leniency for UCLA recruits suspected in Rose Bowl locker room thefts

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Deion Sanders walks through the locker room at the Rose Bowl.

Colorado coach Deion Sanders asked for leniency toward the four Beaumont High School students suspected of stealing jewelry and other items from the locker room while the Buffaloes played UCLA at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 28.

It was reported that at least three of Sanders’ players had jewelry taken from their lockers, while others had headphones and cash stolen from them.

“Let’s make sure those kids atone for what transpired, whether it’s community service or whatever it is, but they don’t lose the opportunities to change their lives,” Sanders said during a news conference Tuesday. “They are kids. They made a stupid, dumb, idiotic mistake. When I was 17, 18, so did I. All right? So did you.”

On Wednesday, UCLA coach Chip Kelly also called for leniency toward the recruits.

“I’m in 100% agreement with Coach Deion that this shouldn’t ruin their lives,” Kelly said. “You gotta let the judicial system take its course. But, you know, to ruin their lives? No.”

Read more: ‘This shouldn’t ruin their lives.’ Chip Kelly calls for leniency in locker-room thefts

Some missing items already had been returned by mail to Colorado, but other items were seized during Pasadena Police Department searches targeting the students, according to Pasadena spokesperson Lisa Derderian.

Leads left on the department tip line pointed officers to the alleged thieves.

“The [tips] played a crucial role in helping us ensure safety and security in our community,” Pasadena police said in a statement. “Our detectives worked diligently to follow up on all leads, which resulted in the quick execution of search warrants. The investigation will be ongoing.”

It’s not clear whether all four of the Beaumont students were football players, but they were not on an official NCAA recruiting visit when they attended the game, according to UCLA spokesperson Liza David.

The NCAA allows unlimited official visits by players to Division I schools, although only one visit is allowed per school, which can pay for transportation to and from the campus, lodging throughout the visit, three meals a day and three tickets to a home sports event.

Read more: Jewelry was stolen from Colorado locker room during game at Rose Bowl on Saturday

Often, players from high schools near a university take unofficial visits. Jason Brown, host of “The Coach JB Show” podcast, claimed during a recent episode that at least two of the Beaumont students suspected of theft were football players. He said they were removed from the team bus headed to the team’s CIF Southern Section Division 3 first-round playoff game on Nov. 3 by Pasadena police officers.

Beaumont football coach Jeff Steinberg declined to comment. His team’s season ended with a 26-13 loss at Hesperia Oak Hills.

Kelly said Wednesday that Steinberg had called him and “expressed his remorse and disappointment” over the situation.

The Beaumont Unified School District issued a statement: “We are disappointed and disheartened to hear of the alleged involvement of Beaumont High School students in the incident at the UCLA-Colorado football game on October 28. We strive to promote strong character and integrity in our students, and the alleged actions do not represent our core values as a school, District, and community. While the students were not at the UCLA-Colorado football game as part of a school-sponsored event, the District is cooperating fully with Pasadena Police Department’s investigation.”

Read more: The gospel according to Deion Sanders: Coach Prime woos fans and overhauls Colorado

UCLA provides security to the home and visitor locker rooms during games at the Rose Bowl. “We have security posted at all the entry points of the locker rooms,” David said.

Kelly said “a lot” of recruits were at the game and the Rose Bowl gives them badges to identify themselves.

“So how do they get into different places, whether it be our locker room or their locker room?” he said. “You know, I think that was, they’re still trying to get to the bottom of that, of how that occurred.”

Cam’Ron Silmon-Craig, one of the Colorado players who had his jewelry stolen, retweeted a video of Buffaloes players discussing the situation after the 28-16 loss to UCLA. One player can be heard saying, “I just got mine, bro. I had the jewelry box and everything, bro. They took it off my jewelry box.”

Read more: Colorado State coach threw shade at Deion Sanders. So Prime got Colorado players glasses

The brazen theft and breakdown in security shocked the Buffaloes players, but Sanders believes the alleged perpetrators should be treated with a measure of understanding.

“Let’s pray for those kids and lift them up, and hopefully and prayerfully, they get another opportunity,” he said.

Derderian said no arrests had been made and the investigation is ongoing. The case has been turned over to the Los Angeles County Juvenile Division.

Times staff writer Ben Bolch contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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