In a news conference Wednesday, Penn State Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour did not provide details about the allegations but clarified that they were “previously unknown” to the school and “independent, unrelated” to the July story.
“Anyone who has ever coached — especially at this level — knows the exceptional amount of energy and focus it takes to deliver each and every day. This has been an incredibly difficult year for me and my family, and we are in need of a break to reset and chart our path forward,” the 49-year-old Chambers, who had been at Penn State since 2011, said in a statement. “So, I’m taking a step back to prepare myself for the next 20 years.”
Chambers will be replaced on an interim basis this season by assistant coach Jim Ferry, who was the head coach at Duquesne from 2012 to 2017. The Nittany Lions’ schedule has not been released after it was altered because of the coronavirus pandemic; the NCAA has designated Nov. 25 as the first day basketball games can be played.
Penn State said the review of the allegations against Chambers was conducted jointly by the school’s Affirmative Action and Athletics Integrity offices. Barbour told reporters that she and PSU President Eric J. Barron received the offices’ report “inside the last two weeks.” She added “as difficult as this news may be, both President Barron and I believe that this is the right outcome.”
Chambers apologized in July for “the pain my words and ignorance caused” a former player of his, Rasir Bolton. After transferring to Iowa State following the 2018-19 season, Bolton wrote in July, “A ‘noose’ around my neck is why I left [Penn State].”
In a story published that day by the Undefeated, Chambers is quoted as having said in 2019 to Bolton, who was going through on-court struggles at the time, “I want to be a stress reliever for you. You can talk to me about anything. I need to get some of this pressure off you.
“I want to loosen the noose that’s around your neck.”
Bolton wrote, “Due to other interactions with Coach, I knew this was no slip of the tongue.”
“I failed to comprehend the experiences of others, and the reference I made was hurtful, insensitive and unacceptable,” Chambers said at the time. “I cannot apologize enough for what I said, and I will carry that forever.”
On Wednesday, Chambers said, “I remain deeply committed to helping student-athletes reach their full potential on and off the court, and I look forward to giving my all for them in my next role.” He also listed some of his accomplishments over his nine years with Penn State, including:
- “61 wins in the 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20 seasons (the most in any three year stretch by the Nittany Lions in the Big Ten era).”
- “9 All-Big Ten selections and 23 Academic all-Big Ten honorees.”
- “A 90% graduation rate (nearly 10% above the national average).”
- “18 wins against ranked opponents (the most in program history).”
Chambers, who was the head coach at Boston University for two years before joining Penn State, was having his most successful season with the Nittany Lions when the pandemic forced the cancellation of the NCAA tournament. At 21-10, PSU was widely expected to receive an invitation to the NCAA tournament for the first time under Chambers and just the sixth time since 1955. Chambers led his 2017-18 team to an NIT championship.
“Coach Chambers has made many contributions to the program, and to this university, for which we are grateful,” Barbour said. “The team has been on a positive trajectory.”
Asked about reports that possible recruiting violations may been included in Penn State’s investigation, she said that “NCAA matters were not part of this.”