University of Maryland Chancellor John B. Slaughter yesterday formally reprimanded basketball Coach Lefty Driesell for his "unacceptable" intervention in the disciplinary case of one of his players.
That intervention included telephone calls to the woman whose complaint against junior cocaptain Herman Veal resulted in his athletic ineligibility.
Slaughter found Driesell's conduct in contacting the woman and "others to be unacceptable and contrary to my expectations for university personnel."
Driesell, reading from a statement that a source close to the situation said attorney Edward Bennett Williams helped him draft, said, "At no time in this matter did I ever intend to harass or intimidate or mistreat anyone, and I don't believe I did. I do realize some of my comments made in the heat of the moment were not appropriate, and if my call to the young woman upset her, I apologize."
Thus, for the first time, Driesell publicly admitted calling the woman whose complaint that Veal tried to force sexual attentions on her resulted in his ineligibility two days before the end of the regular season. The woman has said Driesell told her that her "name would be dragged through the mud" if the case was not dropped.
The reprimand was announced at a press conference held in the foyer outside the chancellor's College Park office. Slaughter, flanked by Athletic Director Dick Dull and Driesell, read from a prepared text and would not explain his decision in detail; no questions were entertained.
"I consider the matter closed. The university administration will be making no further comment on this matter," he said before making a hasty exit prior to the statement by Driesell, Maryland's coach of 14 years.
It was learned that the reprimand, of which a source said Driesell was notified Tuesday, is a broadly worded document to be included in his personnel file. It involves no other sanctions but sets guidelines for future conduct. "A flagrant violation" of these guidelines most likely would put Driesell's job in jeopardy at the discretion of the chancellor, according to a high university official.
"Violations of university standards will not be tolerated," Slaughter said in his statement.
Although William Salmond, director of the university's student legal aid office and the woman's attorney in this case, expressed reservations that the reprimand was not severe enough, most involved saw the decision in a favorable light.
"I believe it to be appropriate under the facts established," Dull said. "I believe that it stands for the proposition that athletics are subservient and are a component of the educational process at Maryland. . . It is a public apology by a man of high respect that has gotten media attention throughout the country, and I personally believe that it is substantial in its effect on Coach Driesell."
"I would not underestimate the significance of what happened today," said Gary Pavela, director of the university's judicial programs office.
As supervisor of the student judicial process, Pavela was part of the Driesell controversy. A three-member faculty panel had been set up by Slaughter to collect facts about Driesell's actions after Veal's appeals were exhausted and to investigate leaks of confidential information in the original Veal case.
Slaughter said the panel interviewed 16 people and "received information from 16 others." Among them were student athletes who told The Washington Post that Driesell had questioned them about the woman; sources said these were among the unspecified "others" referred to by Slaughter as having been contacted by Driesell.
It was learned that no sanctions have been imposed against Pavela, nor has he been reprimanded. Slaughter said the university has "undertaken a further refinement of campus procedures to protect the confidentiality of campus proceedings as much as possible."
According to the chancellor, Driesell "had not been kept fully informed as to the nature and possible outcome of the campus proceedings" involving Veal. "Thus it was unanticipated by him and a surprise to him when he was first notified on Friday March 4 that the athlete was ineligible . . . Coach Driesell was not previously aware that ineligibility was a potential sanction."
Sources said that neither judicial programs nor Veal kept Driesell updated on the appeal process. Veal had been removed from campus housing in December after his first judicial board hearing, and Driesell apparently thought that was the end of it. But the penalty recommended by the board was stiffened to include ineligiblity until the fall semester and community service; while appealing, Veal continued to play basketball.
On March 3, Maryland, with Veal playing, handed eventual national champion North Carolina State its final loss (in Raleigh) and, when the Terrapins returned home, Driesell found a letter on his desk detailing Veal's penalty. "He was very upset," said a person close to the situation.
According to the chancellor's statement, Driesell met with unspecified university officials March 4 and 5 and "in one of these meetings Coach Driesell suggested that someone should inform X (as Slaughter called the woman) that her name and the facts of the case surrounding the athlete's ineligiblity to play in a nationally televised game would inevitably be reported to the public."
Driesell, Slaughter said, feared the publicity would hurt the woman as well as Veal. A source close to the situation suggested that Driesell felt the woman's past would be revealed when the situation became public, and believed that to be a mitigating factor in his calls.
"I sincerely believe my motivations in this matter were right and honest ones," Driesell said in his statement yesterday. The chancellor said Driesell told the committee "that at no time did he intend to intimidate X. Coach Driesell has known X for over a year and a half. X confirms that she and Coach Driesell have spoken on many occasions in the gym. For these reasons Coach Driesell felt the call was not inappropriate."
Salmond said, "Today's statement by Coach Lefty Driesell notwithstanding, the effect of these calls on my client has been both real and devastating."
Salmond also questioned Driesell's supposed acquaintance with the woman. "At the very best there were brief encounters in the past year. Those encounters equaled a grand total of 15-20 minutes."
The woman has said she had a passing acquaintance with Driesell and that he never had previously telephoned her.