Iona College, rocked last week by the disclosure that star basketball center Jeff Ruland had signed with an agent, was further shaken yesterday when the New York Daily News charged that the New Rochelle, N.Y., school has illegally subsidized its playrs for at lest two years.
In a copyrighted story, the Daily News said Iona basketball players billed the school for several thousand dollars worth of long-distance cab fares, restaurant and bar tabs and telephone calls -- all in violation of NCAA rules.
Jim Valvano, the former Iona coach who recently took the head-coaching job at North Carolina State University, was part-owner of one of the bars involved. He has since sold his interest, Valvano told The Washington Post during the recent NCAA tournament.
Neither Valvano nor Brother John Driscoll, Iona's president who instigated the investigation into the Ruland situation last week, denied the Daily News allegations.
"I feel there will be an explanation forthcoming for all the recent allegations," Valvano said in a statement released by the N.C. State sports information office. "I will be available to answer any question that an NCAA representative would have regarding the basketball program."
Driscoll, whom an Iona aide said would not comment yesterday, told the Daily News earlier that he had just learned of the situations involving the tabs, cabs and phones. He said there are some instances when payment for cabs and food bills is acceptable, citing transportation after games and meals when the school cafeteria is closed (Iona is primarily a commuter school).
"There has been some evidence of individual abuses in both situations, though," Driscoll told The Daily News.
A spokesman for Driscoll said the universiity president had ordered an internal audit at the school. The Daily News alleged that the bills were sent to the school and paid by the athletic department (Valvano was also athletic director). The Daily News said no records were kept.
The spokesman said that basketball players were not necessarily involved in the telephone credit-card abuses. He said the credit card number "got out among the student body."
According to the Daily News, sources said that the players signed tabs at three restaurants and bars in New Rochelle, sometimes picking up tabs for girlfriends or entire tables, and used taxis from a New Rochelle company for personal trips as far away as Manhattan and Long Island.
Iona's 29-5 record last season was the best in the small, private school's history, and the team ended its season with a loss to Georgetown in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The allegations surfaced only hours after an NCAA investigator completed two days on campus because of the Ruland case.
Ruland has announced he would stay at Iona for his senior season, but the next day it was revealed he had signed with agent Paul Corvino of Mamaroneck, N.Y. Ruland then applied for the NBA draft as an underclassman.
Son Monday, Driscoll announced that Ruland was "sweet-talked" and "coerced" into the agreement with Corvino and, citing a previous case involving Lonnie Shelton at Oregon, is trying to restore Ruland's amateur status.
At that time, Driscoll said, "I want to press the issue in order to let other college presidents and athletic directors know there is no need to stonewall problems in their athletic departments. I would like to participate on an NCAA committee that would hopefully put some of these unsavory agents out of business."
Asked why Driscoll would have no comment yesterday, his spokesman said: "He wants to find out first what's going on . . . Maybe we have done these things and maybe we haven't. We don't know. Our integrity as an institution is at stake here. That's why there's no statement today."
Iona faces possible forfeiture of its games and $80,000 of NCAA money because of the Ruland case, and could face probation if found guilty of the subsequent allegations.