The University of Virginia's athletic program, under scrutiny after a former walk-on football player pleaded guilty to two counts of cocaine distribution, is "preparing for the worst," according to Athletic Director Dick Schultz.
"We've got ourselves prepared for the worst-case scenario, although I don't think it will happen," Schultz said last week. "But I don't want to be like the parent who says, 'My kid ain't involved,' and then the next day it turns out the kid is."
The worst-case scenario for Virginia and Schultz would be for more former or current Cavalier athletes to be indicted as part of the federal grand jury investigation into drug dealing in Charlottesville and at the university since November.
The federal grand jury already has indicted Kevin Alfred Turner, the former walk-on player, along with 12 other persons, in a wide-ranging drug investigation that also has produced several indictments in Lynchburg. The grand jury is expected to hand down more indictments when it meets here again July 22-23.
Turner originally faced eight cocaine-related charges. He pleaded guilty in federal court here to two counts of intent to distribute cocaine and to one count of using the telephone as a means to sell cocaine. The other charges were dropped. He is awaiting sentencing July 28, along with Ruben Dario Vahos, a law student at Virginia who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
Charlottesville Police Chief John (Dek) Bowen said of Turner's case, "What he said leads you to believe he was dealing with the football team." And the Charlottesville Daily Progress quoted University Police Sgt. William J. Morris as saying in court, "The majority of Mr. Turner's customers were athletes at the University of Virginia."
However, in a recent interview at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Joint Security Complex, Turner denied that he ever knowingly dealt cocaine to Virginia athletes.
"I never sold to anyone I knew was an athlete," he said. However, Turner alleged in the interview that he sold cocaine to a member of the varsity track team, who, Turner said, he did not realize was an athlete at the time.
Turner said that if only dealers are indicted, he doubted there would be more than one indictment from the Virginia athletic program. "I was the big fish they were after," he said. "I'd be surprised if more than one other player is indicted."
If any current Virginia athlete is indicted, Schultz said, that person would immediately be suspended from varsity athletics.
Three other present or former Virginia football players -- Howard Petty, Barry Word and Kenny Stadlin -- have been questioned in connection with the grand jury probe, it was reported in the Roanoke Times and World News. Petty, a junior running back, is the only one of those three still with the team. Word was the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year last season before flunking out. Stadlin was all-ACC as a kicker in 1985.
Other members of the Virginia football team have said that Turner frequently spent time with athletes after a career-ending knee injury. "Unless you were naive, you knew what was going on," said former Virginia all-America Jim Dombrowski.
The investigation is not focused on casual users of drugs, but rather on the dealers, said Bowen, who has two of his city policemen on a special task force gathering information to be presented to the grand jury. "The task force is concentrating on distributors," he said. "We're just taking a back seat and letting them do their job."
The task force has 11 members and is made up of two FBI special agents, two special agents of the Internal Revenue Service, two city police detectives, two Albemarle County police officers, two Virginia state police officers and a University of Virginia police officer, according to a source familiar with the investigation.
Morgan Scott, an assistant U.S. attorney, is the prosecutor for the task force.
The task force had been aware of Turner's dealings for quite some time before he was indicted, according to Bowen. "We had known about Turner prior to the task force, and so that just carried over to the task force," Bowen said.
Chip Harding, one of the task force members and a Charlottesville policeman, spoke to all Virginia varsity athletes on Sept. 12, 1985, as part of the athletic department's drug education program. At that time, Harding warned the athletes to stay away from Turner, according to several Virginia athletes who were at the meeting.
According to former Virginia football center Harold Garren, Harding said: "We know about a Virginia alumni football player who we're sure is dealing drugs. I know that others on the team are using drugs, and I will bust them if they don't clean up."
Although Turner said he did not deal to any athletes, he said he was friends with many until after Harding's talk. "I was blackballed," he said.
Turner also said the drug use among athletes at Virginia decreased after Harding's comments. "It dropped down dramatically," he said. "They were all scared."
Former Cavaliers offensive lineman Scott Chapin, who also was at the meeting, agreed that Harding's talk made everyone take notice. "I think that made a lot of people sit down and think that this wasn't a game," he said. "It made me realize how much the police knew."
Also, Virginia instituted mandatory drug tests for athletes, which went into effect in December 1985. Virginia head trainer Joe Gieck said all varsity athletes were tested at least once, with the exception of seniors who had played fall sports and did not have any eligibility remaining.
The idea of drug testing was not well-received by some athletes, according to Gieck.
"Some of them were openly hostile, often the straightest ones," he said. "I don't blame them. It is very demeaning to have to strip in front of someone and urinate ."
Dr. Richard Keeling, the director of student health, is responsible for administering tests on the urine samples. He said his department ran approximately 350 drug tests, and estimated that perhaps 5 percent of the athletes tested positive originally. Keeling said that many of the original positive tests were due to prescription drugs rather than illegal drugs and, when the athletes were retested, all came out drug-free.
Schultz said he is proud of the drug education and testing program Virginia implemented, and said he believes the publicity the school has received in the wake of Turner's indictment and guilty plea is somewhat unjustified.
"We resent being the fall guy, especially with the national scene like it is regarding drugs," Schultz said. "It's a national problem we're dealing with here, not a Maryland or Virginia problem."