The investigation into the Fairfield University men’s basketball program by one of the premiere NCAA law firms in the nation continued as students filed in for classes last week.

But that investigation, which commenced August 6, took a new turn this Sunday when a report in the Connecticut Post alleged witness tampering on behalf of former University of Nevada-Las Vegas coach Bill Bayno.

Darren Phillip, a former member of the Fairfield basketball team from 1996-2000, told the Post that Bayno, who is friends with Fairfield coach Tim O’Toole, attempted to persuade Oscar Garcia into changing his story of the improprieties of the school’s basketball program.

The attorney heading the investigation, Steve Morgan, is “one of the most credible and most experienced people around today,” according to Gene Doris, the Fairfield athletic director.

“Steve has worked with the NCAA for over 20 years,” said Doris. “This firm has been of council for the university for a number of years now.”

“You always hope you never have to use them,” said Doris.

Jermaine Clark, ’02, Garcia and Jeremy Logan, ’03, and two former players that wished to remain anonymous, said in the Tuesday Aug. 5 edition of the Connecticut Post that Fairfield’s basketball coaching staff falsified mandated drug tests, committed academic dishonesty by writing term papers for several players, gave cash handouts for as much as $500 during the 1999-2000 winter break, and gave regular cash payments from a booster, according to one claim made by a player wishing to remain anonymous.

Head coach Tim O’Toole, a Fairfield graduate who recently signed a multi-year contract extension with the Stags, was unable to be reached for comment.

The charges where originally brought to the attention of the school on March 7, the first day of the MAAC tournament, through an anonymous letter sent to the president of the university, Rev. Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J. The letter made the same allegations as were made in the Connecticut Post article, according to Doris. However, the letter lacked the detailed accounts provided in the Connecticut Post story.

Upon receiving the letter, Kelley and Doris ordered for an investigation by Fairfield’s in-house Athletic Compliance Committee, made up of Mark Reed, dean of students, who was away at the time and unable to join the committee, Mark Guglielmoni, the director of human resources, Dr. Milo Peck, an accounting professor, and Dr. Leo F. O’Connor, an American Studies professor.

The committee reported directly to Kelley during its 10 day investigation, in which the committee interviewed both members of the basketball team and its coaches.

The committee found the charges to be baseless.

“The committee felt that there was no substance to the letter,” said Doris.

But after Garcia made his allegations to the Connecticut Post, Kelley ordered yet another investigation, this time by the law firm of Bond, Schoeneck, ‘ King.

Kelley stressed that the university would actively seek out and cooperate with an independent law firm in his letter sent to faculty, students, and alumni on August 5.

“The University has a long-standing and strong commitment to operating its athletics program in full compliance with NCAA requirements and takes all such allegations extremely seriously,” said Kelley.

“Fr. Kelley was very adamant about working with a fully independent investigation,” said Doris.

One of the aspects of the University is most concerned about affecting the school because of the investigation, according to Doris, is the reaction of students, alumni, and perspective students.

“Obviously, it’s a concern, without question,” said Doris. “It’s difficult to judge how this has affected recruiting.”

The university, which spent $177,208 on the basketball team’s operating expenses, the highest of any Fairfield sport according to the 2001-2002 Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act (EADA), may now soon be paying an even higher price if sanctioned by the NCAA, which could include fines, loss of tournament eligibility and loss of scholarships.

Dr. Robbin Crabtree, chair of Fairfield’s Communication Department, said she was very concerned of the allegations, especially since she was the academic advisor to both Garcia and Logan.

“It’s definitely something we’re going to talk about [this semester],” Crabtree said. “We’re going to question whether or not we are paying enough attention to the student-athletes, and properly mentoring the student-athletes.”

Some students were not surprised by the allegations.

“I’m not surprised about some of the accusations.  It’s something that happens in many schools,” former men’s tennis captain Joe Fennell, ’02, said.  “Fairfield, especially, with all its emphasis on the basketball program with the Arena and such, the program has added pressure to succeed, and at whatever cost.

“But I think you need to first take a look at your sources and their motives before establishing a firm judgment,” said Fennell.

Joe Fomenko, ’04, said that the accusations are not something you would usually associate with Fairfield.

“Assuming the allegations are true, it’s disheartening to learn that a school that claims to pride itself on Jesuit ideals and academics is involved with these types of violations,” Fomenko said.

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