The Tulane University senate voted yesterday in New Orleans to support TU President Eamon Kelly's recommendation that the troubled Green Wave basketball program be dropped. In a court arraignment a few hours earlier, four persons accused of rigging point spreads in Tulane games pleaded not guilty.
A gag order preventing comments on the gambling case was issued at the request of attorneys for NBA prospect John Williams, who entered his plea of not guilty before New Orleans Criminal District Judge Alvin Oser.
The university senate -- 51 faculty and staff representatives and five student representatives -- voted 42-5 with one abstention (and apparently eight absences) to support Kelly's decision. The five dissenters were the students. Kelly also recommended formation of a "blue ribbon" committee that would supervise Tulane's remaining athletic programs.
The senate's recommendation will be passed on to the school board of administrators, which meets Thursday, for final approval or disapproval of Kelly's actions. Little opposition is expected.
Kelly now has received the support of the faculty and the alumni. But student body president Ed Heffernan said a meeting of the student senate will be held today for another vote.
"The consensus is that we are against his proposal," Heffernan said. "I just don't see the justification for it. Seeing what happened today is a pretty good indication of how we feel.
"My position is that if the allegations of the scandal are true, then let's accept responsibility for it and start anew . . . The basketball program obviously needs management and supervision. So far it has been under the management and supervision of the administrators, not the students. But we're the ones getting hurt. They're getting rid of the problem, but they aren't answering it."
Heffernan will be at the board of administrators meeting Thursday and will present the vote results.
"Whether it will have any weight or not, we don't know," he said.
"I've been finding there is mixed reaction," Kelly said. " . . . The board of administrators has the final judicial responsibility. I will present the board with the actions of the alumni, senate and the students. But I don't think the student body will affect my decision."
In a strongly worded statement supporting Kelly, the university senate said, "We particularly reject charges of 'overreaction' with regard to this decision and urge all officers of the university to resist pressures from those who are unaware of or unconcerned with the effect of the commercialization of college sports on educational standards."
Kelly's action stems from charges that three Tulane basketball players, three fellow students and two other persons conspired to affect the outcome of the school's Metro Conference games in February against Southern Mississippi, Virginia Tech and Memphis State.
The three who pleaded not guilty to sports bribery charges with Williams yesterday were guard David Dominique, Roland Ruiz and Craig Bourgeois, a nonstudent suspected of being a middleman in one of the games involved.
Attorney Michael Green of Chicago, one of several lawyers working in Williams' behalf, requested the gag order to prevent leaks from the office of Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick. Green has objected to newspaper and magazine reports in which prosecutors made statements and secret grand jury testimony was cited.
Green asked for an exception to the gag order for an interview he granted to Sports Illustrated which is scheduled to appear this week. Asked if he had timed the order to make sure he got his turn in a publication, Green replied, "That's an interesting thought."
The four others indicted entered pleas last week in separate arraignments at the New Orleans courthouse. Students Gary Kranz of New Rochelle, N.Y., and Mark Olensky of Fair Lawn, N.J., each pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of sports bribery and three counts of conspiracy.
Player Bobby Thompson of New Orleans pleaded guilty last week to one count of conspiracy to commit sports bribery. He originally had been charged with two counts, but the charge was reduced after he agreed to cooperate with Connick's investigation. Student David Rothenberg of Wilton, Conn., who also is cooperating with prosecutors, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and possession of cocaine.