Associated Press

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - About 100 people marched outside Carver-Hawkeye Arena Tuesday night to protest the University of Iowa's handling and discipline of basketball player Pierre Pierce, who was charged this fall with sexual assault.

The protesters carried placards, asked fans attending Iowa's final exhibition game to sign petitions and demanded that university administrators take a harsher disciplinary stance against the sophomore guard.

"Pierre Pierce has got to go: Hey, hey. Ho, ho," protesters chanted outside the arena.

Pierce, 19, was originally charged with third-degree sexual abuse in September. He pleaded guilty Nov. 1 to assault causing injury, a serious misdemeanor, and received a deferred judgment after attorneys worked with a mediator and families of Pierce and the victim to reach an agreement.

Pierce and university officials agreed that he would redshirt this season and keep his scholarship. Pierce can practice with the team but will not travel with the Hawkeyes. He must also perform 200 hours of community service and undergo counseling.

The settlement has touched off a wave of anger from students and others around the state. Students are circulating a petition calling for harsher discipline and newspapers have criticized coach Steve Alford for stating publicly that he believed Pierce was innocent.

The university has also been criticized for not issuing more serious sanctions in the case.

Harsher discipline was clearly the motivation for protesters.

Signs carried during the protest included: "There is no room for violence at UI;" "Steve Alford: Support justice, not violence."

"I think a lot of people are outraged," said Kelli Moore, 27, an Iowa alum who joined the rally. "I would like to see Pierre ejected from school. He violated the code of conduct."

Freshman Keith Turner said the university was promoting a double standard and special treatment by not following the code of conduct and expelling Pierce.

"I would like to see more action against Pierce," Turner said. "Plus, (coach) Alford never made the impression on me that he was sorry … or even angry about what Pierce did."

Not everyone at the game agreed with the dissenters.

"I think the whole situation should be laid to rest," said Marvin Hiddleson, of West Des Moines. "Give due respect to the victim and her parents. They've made their decision and we all must live by it."

The Hawkeyes closed out the exhibition season Tuesday against Team Nike. Pierce did not join the team on the bench during the game.

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