American University officials said yesterday that no charges will be filed against West Chester State's basketball coach or players for damage done to Fort Myer gymnasium Monday night during a game's-end melee involving the visiting Rams and the referees.
A West Chester State official said the Pennsylvania college will be responsible for all damages. But Coach Earl Voss denied yesterday that he or his players had pushed the officials.
"West Chester State will certainly make restitution to the military base for whatever damage was done by our coach and players," said Louis F. Weislogel, a vice president in charge of the athletic department. "I regret the incident. I am disturbed and distressed over the whole matter. Our athletic department has been asked to give me a full written report."
Fort Myer Provost Marshal M.L. Pickens estimated that $500 damage had been done to the visitors' locker room, which was a shambles afterward. Several West Chester State players punched and kicked through the green fiberglass railing leading to AU's and the officials' dressing rooms.
The incident began when a basket by West Chester State's Don Hunter, which would have sent the game into overtime, was disallowed by referee Joe Lalli. When he ruled that time had run out, Voss and several of his players charged Lalli and the other official, Joe Sylvester. The officials were pushed and shoved by Voss and several players all the way to their dressing room.
One official was pushed to the floor, as were two spectators. West Chester's Sidney Jones picked up a metal rod and tried to force his way into the officials' dressing room until military police entered the gymnasium with guard dogs and restored order.
Lou Bonder, supervisor of officials for the Eastern College Athletic Conference, said he had received a report from Sylvester, but could not reach Lalli by telephone.
"Sylvester said that by the time he got over to help Lalli, there were so many people surrounding (Lalli) he couldn't even get near," Bonder said. "Sylvester said that the AU players formed a wedge and kept them (both officials) from being hurt. He knew (Lalli) was shook up. He indicated that he thought (Lalli) was hit, that he was mauled."
Bonder said that if Voss was guilty of pushing or hitting an official, he could be reprimanded or punished by the ECAC, the East Coast Conference (which is under the ECAC) and/or West Chester State College. "A coach can be suspended," Bonder added.
This is the last season in the ECC for West Chester State. The suburban Philadelphia school recently opted to drop its basketball program to Division II.
Lalli, a graduate of George Washington University, could not be reached for comment. Bonder said he cannot start his investigation until Lalli files a report.
Bob Frailey, American University's director of athletics, said he is taking responsibility for the damages until his school and West Chester State agree on restitution. Frailey said Army officials at Fort Myer were upset, but will allow American to continue playing its games there. The Eagles try for a school record 13 straight victories tonight against Navy at Fort Myer.
"I talked to West Chester State's athletic director, Richard Yoder, and gave him the facts as I saw them," Frailey said, "He was disturbed. But last night was one of those acts of disorder that is impossible to stop. The same thing could have happened in the Capital Centre or Madison Square Garden. They (the Rams) were off that bench in a hurry."
"The whole thing has been blown out of proportion," Voss said. "Their stands emptied and all hell broke loose. I wasn't trying to harass the official. I just wanted him to confirm his call with the official timekeeper and he wouldn't. I wouldn't have been upset if he'd have done that."
Asked if he condoned his players charging the officials, Voss replied, "That was uncalled for, ridiculous. I can't justify it. It never happened to me before in more than 20 years of coaching. I'm sure they (his players) are sorry. We're going to investigate the whole matter."
Asked why a wall thermostat had been destroyed, a water fountain dismantled and a door petition ripped apart in the visitors' dressing room, Voss replied, "It was the worst, the dirtiest, the filthiest locker room I've ever been in. The water fountain was so dirty I wouldn't drink from it. The whole thing wasn't worth $500."
"So much was said about the game that didn't have anything to do with the game itself, or how we played, that it's just something we want to put behind us," said AU Coach Gary Williams. "We won't dwell on it anymore. We've been involved in some close emotional games where we lost. And I think our players understand the feelings of the West Chester team."