The University of San Francisco announced yesterday it has abolished its traditionally powerful men's basketball program because misconduct by alumni and players has threatened the "integrity and credibility of the university."
At a press conference in San Francisco, university President Rev. John LoSchiavo said USF's board of trustees voted overwhelmingly in a closed session Wednesday night to abolish the program. USF's basketball team won NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956, with superstars Bill Russell and K.C. Jones, and often has been highly ranked nationally.
LoSchiavo largely blamed alumni who broke NCAA rules by helping finance players; one wealthy alumnus reportedly paid all-America Quintin Dailey $1,000 for a summer job he never worked, plus other monies.
"An alumnus for whose actions the NCAA holds the university responsible has paid money on numerous occasions to an enrolled student athlete who did not work for it," LoSchiavo said when asked about Dailey, who was given a suspended sentence after he pleaded guilty last month to assaulting a nursing student.
Dailey, from Baltimore, could not be reached for comment yesterday. But his agent, Bob Woolf, was shocked and speechless for a few moments.
"I just feel badly," Woolf said. ". . . It's a tragedy. Everything else has come down on Quintin. I guess he'll have the burden of this, too." Woolf said he had not talked about the issue with Dailey, who is playing summer basketball in Los Angeles with the Chicago Bulls, who made him their No. 1 pick in last month's draft.
Wallace Bryant, another former USF player drafted by Chicago, said, "There have been so many problems, I can't say this comes as a total shock. I could have expected it."
Reached in his Los Angeles hotel room, Bryant said, "It seemed like they (USF) were scared of (the NCAA) or somebody . . . I feel very sorry for the fellas that are left there."
Reynoldo Thomas, an incoming freshman guard at USF, was quoted by United Press International as saying, "I hold Quintin Dailey responsible. Quintin had no feelings for his teammates. I think something should be done about him.
"I was on scholarship here," Thomas said. "Now I have to find a new home. It makes me feel real bad because they aren't looking at the student, they were only looking at the athlete."
LoSchiavo said scholarship obligations to basketball players will be honored and that players are free to transfer to other schools. Those who transfer would not have to sit out a year.
He said that whether the basketball program is reinstated "will depend on whether those responsible for this university are convinced that the factors that destroyed the program are not going to beset us again, and that a sound, constructive program can be developed and maintained to contribute positively to the life of USF rather than to afflict it.
"It's not humanly possible to know what they're all doing," LoSchiavo said of the alumni.
The problems at USF go further back than Dailey, however. In 1976 the NCAA put the program on probation because an alumnus paid the tuition for a high school basketball star. USF was put on probation again in 1979 for committing recruiting violations over a six-year period. The school was on "unsanctioned probation" last year, which allowed the team to compete in postseason tournaments.
Dan Risley, a former assistant coach, said that even though he hated to see the program abolished, LoSchiavo was "backed against a wall and had to make a decision.
"Father LoSchiavo said that if anything like this ever came up again, he'd get rid of the sport," Risley said in a telephone conversation. "Bill Cartwright (former all-America center at USF) and I were told about the board of trustee vote late Wednesday night and we were extremely upset. It's very sad that you have to take this step and I wish there was something else they could do. But Father LoSchiavo stood by his statement."
Head Coach Pete Barry could not be reached for comment. The university said he would be retained in another capacity.
Said LoSchiavo: "Anyone who is familiar with this institution and its proud history will understand what a painful decision this is."
Since 1924, the Dons have compiled a record of 869-467. They gained the NCAA championship tournament 14 times, including the last two years, and reached the final four three times.
An NCAA spokesman said last night that this is the first time a program as prestigious as USF's has been dropped completely while operating at this level.
The news from San Francisco also affected Howard University, which was to compete in the Golden Gate Classic, hosted by USF, on Dec. 17 and 18. The Bison's biggest home game ever was to take place on Dec. 3, 1983, when they were to play San Francisco in Burr Gymnasium. They also were to play in the Golden Gate Classic in 1983.
"That's unheard of," Howard Coach A.B. Williamson said when told of the news. "I don't even want to think about it right now. We'll just have to hunt for two more games, three more for the next year."
Williamson said he would expect the NCAA to give his team a waiver, so that it could remain in Division I, if Howard is unable to schedule three other Division I games before the season starts.