Outside counsel and NCAA investigations did not result in a finding of major violations in Fairfield university's men's basketball program


Image: NCAA press conference

Sixteen months after public allegations of serious improprieties were made against Fairfield University's men's basketball program, the University announced Thursday that an investigation by outside counsel and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) did not result in a finding of major violations.

The alleged infractions, reported widely in the media, accused the program of academic fraud, falsified drug testing, cash to student-athletes, inconsistent compensation for work in summer camps and excessive practice time. The University, an outside independent investigation and the NCAA all found no major violations.

"Earlier this week, we received word from the NCAA that following review of the University's findings and the subsequent follow-up investigation by the NCAA, no major violations had been found," Fairfield's President Rev. Jeffrey von Arx., S.J., told a crowd of students, faculty and staff who gathered for the campus-wide announcement. "This is good news for Fairfield University and for the basketball program.

"Fairfield has a long-standing and strong commitment to operating its athletics program in full compliance with NCAA requirements and we are pleased that major violations were not found."

Allegations of possible NCAA rule violations in the program first came to Fairfield's attention in March 2003 when an anonymous facsimile was received in the President's office alleging that infractions had occurred. The University Compliance Committee reviewed the unattributed information, conducted interviews and analyzed records. The committee determined, on the basis of the information available, that it did not believe that such violations had occurred.

Five months later, press accounts reported allegations similar to those in the earlier document, but with additional details and with attribution of some aspects of the possible violations.

Then-President Rev. Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J., re-opened the investigation, hiring outside counsel from Bond, Schoeneck & King, an Overland Park, Kan., law firm with expertise in the area of intercollegiate athletics and NCAA regulations. Stephen Morgan, the attorney assigned to the case, who was on hand for Thursday's announcement, spent 20 years on the NCAA's enforcement and compliance staff prior to joining the firm.

Morgan conducted an independent, extensive and deliberate review of the men's basketball program and the specific allegations and reported his findings to the NCAA. The NCAA then conducted its own review of the information and of the allegations themselves in order to validate the findings and reach its own conclusions.

The NCAA enforcement staff conducted interviews, reviewed financial records, evaluated institutional data and policies and analyzed academic materials. Ultimately, the NCAA enforcement staff accepted the findings and concluded that no further action on its part was warranted.

During Morgan's investigative process, a few secondary violations of NCAA rules not included in the allegations, were discovered. Father von Arx indicated that he had been told it is not unusual for secondary violations to be uncovered during such an extensive program review - especially one that at Father Kelley's request went beyond the allegations themselves.

These minor infractions were immediately reported to the NCAA and resolved in a manner consistent with institutional, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and NCAA procedures prior to the start of the 2003-04 season.

"The discovery of secondary violations, while committed inadvertently, was not taken lightly and was dealt with swiftly and appropriately," Father von Arx said. "Our athletic policies, procedures and programming are continually reviewed, evaluated and refined in our efforts to comply with NCAA rules." In reaching its conclusion in the case, the NCAA did suggest that Fairfield take steps to continue to assure that any involvement of tutors and coaches with student-athletes on academic assignments be conducted in compliance with NCAA regulations. "We will use this opportunity to look closely at any areas that may be improved upon," Father von Arx said.

Reflecting back on his predecessor's handling of this situation, Father von Arx applauded Father Kelley's "determination to pursue a complete and thorough investigation to uncover the truth."

Also present for the announcement were Fairfield's Athletic Director Eugene Doris, and Timothy O'Toole, men's basketball coach.

"We are all very happy that the investigation has come to closure," Doris said. "We want to commend Coach O'Toole, the men's basketball staff and student-athletes in the program, for the class they have shown during this process and the positive results of their efforts both on and off the court under difficult circumstances."

O'Toole said he was pleased with the lack of finding of major violations and praised his team, coaches and fans. "With the outpouring of support we received from so many people, our team became closer and stronger," O'Toole said. "As a head coach, you teach your student-athletes how to deal with adversity. Our players have dealt with this situation with dignity and I am proud of them."

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on December 16, 2004

Vol. 37, No. 123