Having already concluded that the University of Maryland women's basketball program has not been as vigilant as it could have been in monitoring its players, Chancellor John B. Slaughter said yesterday he has asked Athletic Director Dick Dull to conduct more interviews concerning a booster's allegations of drug use and shoplifting by a small number of players.
Slaughter said no players admitted to either activity when asked during confidential interviews, which were conducted by the athletic department with the promise of no recriminations after Slaughter last month asked Dull to review the women's basketball program.
The chancellor said the review did not so far substantiate the allegations made by Janet Welsh, a booster of the women's team, but that he was ordering additional interviews "to be sure of that." However, Slaughter said there was a problem in the program "to the extent we have not been as vigilant as we should have been in terms of monitoring the activities of our students."
To this end, he said he instructed Dull to implement recommendations "to establish standards of conduct for members of all athletic teams and to have a clearer delineation of their responsibility as student-athletes, the fact that they are representatives of the university."
Additionally, Slaughter said he did not "generally subscribe to the theory" that no disciplinary action would be necessary if an athlete is found guilty of a criminal offense. Football Coach Bobby Ross said last week he did not plan to take disciplinary action against Keeta Covington if the defensive back is found guilty of a misdemeanor assault and battery charge stemming from an incident in his dormitory room.
"I think perhaps Keeta has already paid quite a price," said Ross, alluding to publicity generated because Covington is an athlete and because of two prior charges against him -- neither of which was prosecuted -- after a fracas at the Rendezvous Inn, a bar located near the campus in College Park.
Slaughter said he could not comment specifically on the Covington case because he was not familiar with it, but he went on, "It's important for student-athletes to understand they fall under guidelines the university has for dealing with violations of university policy. It is not a function of the athletic department alone."
Campus incidents involving such areas as assault and battery, shoplifting and drug use, among other offenses, are covered by the Student Code of Conduct.
Slaughter said that generally in such cases, "A warning is followed by a severe penalty. People have to be aware that will be the outcome for abhorrent behavior.
"In general, our policy is to use it as an education for a person and to help them learn the consequences of their action before having to bring down the full impact of the law. That's the way a university should respond if at all possible."
Of the women's basketball review, Slaughter declined to say whom else he had asked Dull to interview, saying only it was "approximately half a dozen."
Dull said he will interview the three assistant coaches who left the program in the last two years -- Sue Gorsuch, Gabe Romano and June Olkowski. Dull said he had no plans "at this point" to interview any more former players.
In the first set of interviews, Dull said assistants Randy Hoffman and Gothard Lane interviewed about two dozen people, including current players, managers, coaches, boosters and one former player, Tara Heiss, who was a part-time coach last season.
It is known that one current player who was interviewed said she witnessed shoplifting by two teammates during last summer at a convenience store near campus. That player said she was with another teammate at the time.
It was learned that Dull did not interview Welsh, whose series of letters to Dull and Slaughter brought about the review. Nor did he interview Sydney Beasley, one of the team's top players, who left the team in November after a series of run-ins with Maryland Coach Chris Weller; David Sysma, one of the team's tutors who recently resigned, and at least three other former players who sources said played a key role in Welsh's allegations.
After completing the interviews, Dull said Weller had done "an exemplary job" in handling the program. Weller was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Slaughter said Dull had done "a reasonably comprehensive job" on the review, and that he found the recommendations Dull made "to be good ones."
He added, "I felt, however, there were some things that made it somewhat less than fully comprehensive. In my meeting with him yesterday, I requested that he do some more work, that there were some people I wished him to talk to that had not been contacted.
"I felt that before I would be able to make a complete analysis of the situation, those things had to be done."
Dull said Lane would interview Gorsuch, who is now in private business, and Romano, now a high school coach. Dull said he would interview Olkowski, now an assistant coach at the University of Arizona, during a business trip to Phoenix next week that already was planned.
"I've known Dr. Slaughter to be nothing but a fair and honest man," Dull said of the chancellor's comments on the review. "I have no dispute with them at all. I've never seen him do anything but what was in the best interests of the kids and the institution."
It was that concern that prompted Slaughter to say universities do not do a good job of making athletes responsible students and "to the extent it applies to the University of Maryland, we have to take our share of the responsibility."
Slaughter continued, "We in universities have failed to adequately educate athletes concerning their responsibilities. To a large extent, we have not served them well. In fact we have done a disservice.
"They don't fully understand their responsibilities . . . and that we have done far too much for them and not asked them to live up to some of their responsibilities at times.
"We in higher education have coddled athletes too much and, to some extent, created for them an unreal world. And that's the reason I say we have done them a disservice . . . It's one of the reasons why we are facing some difficulties in intercollegiate athletics today."
Slaughter, current chairman of the reform-minded NCAA President's Commission, concluded, "The American public deifies athletics. While I think it is possible to be a strong fan and strong supporter of athletics, we need to acquire a more appropriate balance of athletics in an academic environment."