Frank Costello, Maryland track coach, has accused track coaches at the University of Southern California of "illegal and unethical" actions in an alleged attempt to convince Terrapin hurdling star Renaldo (Skeets) Nehemiah to transfer to USC.
Costello, who said he was advised of the situation by Nehemiah, made his views known to Maryland Athletic Director Jim Kehoe, who refused to comment on whether or not the school would file a complaint with the NCAA. He said the subject was "too sensitive" to talk about.
Costello, however, said that Kehoe told him USC's behavior was unfair and unethical,' and that Kehoe said to him, "This is illegal and I'll look in to this further. You can bet on that."
Kehoe may have been referring to a possible complaint to the NCAA, or to a subsequent call he placed Monday to USC Athletic Director Dick Perry, who, along with Track Coach Vern Wolfe, denied the charges.
An NCAA spokesman declined comment yesterday.
Nehemiah, who could not be reached at his Scotch Plains, N.J., home yesterday, said previously that stories and rumors of his plans to transfer are untrue.
In an interview last week with the New York Times at the AAU track championships in Los ANgeles, Nehemiah complained about being asked to run too many races. Costello said yesterday that matter was smoothed out "in five minutes" last Sunday; that Nehemiah indicated he was happy at Maryland and would not leave.
"Skeets said that he felt a lot of it (the rumors) was pushed by the people who would like to have him - the Southern California coaches," said Costello. "Several times during the year, Skeets has told me, 'USC is all over my back.' He said coaches have approached him and discussed transferring, which is illegal and unethical.
"I find it shocking. We deal pretty straight out here. The East is not used to this kind of stuff."
Responding to Costello's comments, USC Coach Wolfe said, "He is totally out of the ball park. We have recruited and signed four hurdlers. We don't want the kid.
"I met him (Nehemiah) once while recruiting him out of high school and have not seen or spoken with him since. He wouldn't know me if he saw me on the street. This is an internal situation at Maryland, and if there is a problem with the young man, we don't want to be a part of it. If he's unhappy, I'm sorry for him.
"If someone from our staff sees him at a track meet, we'll say, "Hello, how are you?' That's what sports is all about. We don't want him to leave Maryland. We have a clean program."
Perry, the ULC athletic director, added, "Jim Kehoe called me and expressed to me the things that Mr. Costello is saying and I told him I would pursue the matter. I talked with my coaches and with track personalities outside our program to try and find out where Nehemiah is at. I am convinced there is no substance at all to the allegations of tampering by our coaches. I don't think it's a secret in the track world that he is unhappy at Maryland. He has commented on that a number of times to a number of people. It sounds to me like they have an unhappy athlete who is anticipating transferring and they are looking for a reason."
Much of Maryland's displeasure is directed toward Ken Matsudo, USC assistant track coach, whom Costello feels has been recruiting Nehemiah. But Perry said. "Ken was at the AAU meet (last week) for one hour. We have records to show that he left on an early flight to Sacramento. If he hustled the kid at the AAU meet, you better believe it was one of the greatest hustles of all time because he didn't have a hell of a lot of time to do it."
Costello said the matter of a complaint "is in the hands of Jim Kehoe."
Kehoe is to leave today on a vacation.
The article in the Times last week quoted an anonymous track coach criticizing Costello's use of Nehemiah, saying the 19-year-old freshman, the AAU champion in the 110-meter hurdles, is asked to run too much. In addition to his specialty, the high hurdles, Nehemiah also runs the 100 meters and is on the 440 relay team.
"There's no problem with Skeets," Costello said "We have a good rapport. He's real quiet kid and a couple of times he has had some complaints that he should have told me. I never make a kid do what he doesn't want to do."