Oregon head coach Dana Altman responds to investigation

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It’s been a long week for the University of Oregon’s men’s basketball program as it was revealed on Monday that sophomore guards Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis as well as freshman forward Brandon Austin were investigated for the forcible rape of a female student in an incident that occurred in early March.

Since then, Artis, Austin and Dotson have been dismissed from the men’s basketball program, after initially being suspended, and on Friday, Oregon head coach Dana Altman made his first public comments while addressing the media for first time to discuss the investigation and how it impacts the Ducks going forward.

“I believe it’s within the best interest of the university, the best interest of the young men and the best interest of our program for that decision,” Altman said at the press conference on Friday.

Altman also discussed his timeline of learning of the investigation involving his players and first learned of an incident before the NCAA Tournament began.

“The day before we left to go to Milwaukee, [Oregon athletic director] Rob [Mullens] came into my office and said that there was an incident. Not sure exactly the date but I think it was that Monday because we left for Milwaukee on a Tuesday,” Altman said.

Altman was unaware of much else based on his initial meeting with Mullens and didn’t know of the nature of the incident.

“I didn’t know how serious of allegations that were placed upon the young men at the time,” Altman said. “And at that time Rob had talked with the police department and we were instructed not to take any action or to let any knowledge interfere with their investigation.”

The decision to suspend Oregon’s players was then delayed until a further date when Mullens and Altman read over the police report on the investigation in late April.

“April 30th, Rob and I were called over to the attorney’s office. We read the report. Rob and I discussed it that night and that was when the decision was made to suspend the players,” Altman said.

Although none of the three players were charged with anything stemming from the forcible rape investigation by the Eugene Police Department, Altman said that all three players moving on from the program was in their best interest going forward.

“I think there would be a lot of pressure here at Oregon if they were to return and try to play basketball,” Altman said. “They were disappointed. [Artis] and [Dotson] love the university and they love their time here so we’re disappointed.”

Altman has since spoken with all three players and also expressed disappointment in their actions while also acknowledging that he felt bad for the victim and her family.

“I’ve spoken with the players, again, those were tough conversations, personal conversations. I expressed my disappointment,” Altman said. “Again, they’re young men that I care deeply about so we’ve tried to help them through it, also. There’s four people whose lives have been greatly altered here. I feel really bad for the victim and her family and moving forward it’s a tough situation.”

One of the biggest questions Altman faced was his decision to accept Providence transfer Brandon Austin into the program after it was revealed in a Wall Street Journal report in March that Austin was also investigated for a sexual assault along with former teammate Rodney Bullock. Austin transferred into the Oregon program in January while it was still a Providence College issue.

“Ed Cooley said that it was not a legal matter, that it was a university matter,” Altman said of Austin. “The fact that Providence tried to keep him gave us confidence that it wasn’t a serious matter.

“I spoke with the family and I had every confidence after speaking with them and checking his high school background that there was nothing that would prevent him from joining our team. He did not give specifics [about his incident at Providence] so my line of questioning probably didn’t go deep enough there, in retrospect, but I did not have a specific reason [not to add him to the team].”

Altman also admitted in a follow-up question that Austin did not reveal the full extent of his investigation at Providence.

“He was investigated at the school, but he didn’t tell me [he was investigated for sexual assault],” Altman said of Austin.

Altman was also asked how he felt after defending Dotson’s character following Dotson’s February arrest for having a false identification at a nearby bar.

“I think good people can make bad decisions and this obviously was a very bad decision,” Altman said of defending Dotson. “When you have a history with that young man, that history goes into account as well but he made a very bad decision.”

When asked if he felt pressure for his job following the investigation Altman responded, “No, I didn’t.”

The Oregon head coach also stated that he doesn’t expect any other players to leave the program as he looks to rebuild his roster following the departures of Artis, Austin and Dotson.

“We have six players that are signed for next year, three players on scholarship, so we currently have nine players that are either on scholarship or signed,” Altman said. “We’ll possibly add a player or two to that number but right now we’ve got the nine.

“We’ll go with players that fit our program and fit our needs.”

Osun Osunniyi picks St. Bonaventure over Syracuse, Georgetown

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St. Bonaventure has made something of a late splash on the recruiting trail.

Osun Osunniyi, a 6-foot-10 from Putnam (Conn.) Science Academy, signed with the Bonnies, the school announced Monday.

It’s a bit of a recruiting coup for coach Mark Schmidt, who won the services of Osunniyi over offers from Syracuse and Georgetown, both of whom hosted the prospect on official visits this spring.

“Osun oozes with potential. His ceiling is extremely high. He has so much God-given ability,” Schmidt said in a statement. “And, he’s a great kid, a character kid who is level-headed. He has a great wingspan, he runs well, he has a natural talent for blocking shots and is a very good rebounder. He can score around the basket.

“Osun wants to get better, like all of our players. We saw how he developed at Putnam, which is a credit to coach Espinosa and the staff there. He’s come a long way to become a kid who was highly recruited. We’re thrilled to have him come to St. Bonaventure.”

Osunniyi, who previously committed to La Salle before taking a prep year, becomes the fourth member of the Bonnies’ 2018 freshman class. He averaged 10 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots per game while Putnam won a national prep championship.

The Bonnies made the NCAA tournament as an 11 seed last year after going 26-8.

Christian Vital going back to UConn for junior season

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Dan Hurley is keeping his roster intact at the top.

Christian Vital, UConn’s second-leading scorer a season ago, is returning to school after declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, he announced Monday via social media.

“Great Talk Today Coach! Appreciate The Wisdom You Have Let Me In On!” Vital wrote “I Think It’s Time To Get Back To Winning Ways In Storrs! I’m Going To Need That #1 Back ASAP! WE GOT (UNFINISHED) BUSINESS!”

The 6-foot-2 junior-to-be Vital joins Jalen Adams, who was the Huskies’ top-returning scorer, back in Storrs in Hurley’s first year. Vital averaged 14.9 points on 38.3 percent shooting. Adams previously announced he would return to school without declaring for the draft.

The return of UConn’s top two scorers underscores an even bigger trend under Hurley as the Huskies appear to have avoided any major defections from last year’s roster despite the coaching change.

UConn is coming off a 14-18 season that proved to be the last of coach Kevin Ollie’s six years with the Huskies that included a national championship but also back-to-back losing seasons.

Chris Silva returning to South Carolina for senior season

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South Carolina is getting an first-team all-SEC performer back.

Chris Silva, who led the Gamecocks in scoring and rebounding last season, is returning to school after declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, the school announced Monday.

“I’m thankful for the experience of going through the draft process,” Silva said in a statement. “I want to thank all of the teams that gave me the opportunity to workout for their organization. I’m excited to announce that I’m returning to South Carolina for my senior season. I can’t wait to get back on the court with my brothers and continue to work on my game.”

The 6-foot-9 Silva, who did not get an NBA draft combine invite, averaged 14.3 points and 8 rebounds per game as a junior.  He shot 46.7 percent from the floor.

“Going through the evaluation process was an unbelievable experience for Chris and us,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said in a statement. “He comes back to a place he loves with some knowledge on some of the things that we have to help him improve on in his efforts to one day fulfill his lifelong dream of playing in the NBA.”

In addition to being South Carolina’s leading scorer, he was the SEC co-defensive player of the year last season after averaging 1.4 blocks per game. His return to Columbia gives the Gamecocks a potential contender for SEC player of the year in 2018-19.

Kansas fires athletic director Sheahon Zenger

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Kansas has fired athletic director Sheahon Zenger, effective immediately, citing a lack of progress in key areas within the athletic department.

“Sheahon has been a loyal Jayhawk, and our athletics department has improved in many areas under his leadership,” Kansas Chancellor Doug Girod wrote in an email to KU faculty and staff. “But athletics continues to face a number of challenges, and progress in key areas has been elusive. To achieve the level of success we need and expect, I have determined a change in leadership is necessary.”

Zenger had been in the role of AD since 2011.

The issue, of course, is not the play of the Kansas basketball program. The Jayhawks have won every Big 12 regular season title since 2004, and head coach Bill Self has taken the program to two Final Fours since Zenger was hired.

The football team is still a disaster, but one can’t help but wonder whether or not the real issue at hand here is Kansas’ getting tied into the FBI’s investigation into college basketball.

The Jayhawks were not mentioned in the initial indictments that were handed down, but Kansas was a central figure in the superseding indictments that were dropped after the national title game. The mother of Billy Preston, who did not play for the Jayhawks this season, was alleged to have been funneled $90,000 by Adidas, while Silvio De Sousa’s status is currently in question after the FBI alleged his guardian was paid at least $20,000 to help offset money that the family had already accepted from a rival shoe company.

All of that came in the aftermath of dealing with Cheick Diallo and Cliff Alexander, both of whom had their one season in Lawrence reduced due to off the court issues.

“Since becoming chancellor, I have spent countless hours with higher education peers and Jayhawks to hear their perspective on KU,” Girod wrote. “A common thread in these conversations is that, as a major public university with national aspirations, we must continue to strive for excellence in all areas — including athletics. As I have said many times, a successful athletics department is inextricably linked to our broader mission as a flagship research university.”

Louisville, ex-AD Tom Jurich reach $4.5M settlement

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The University of Louisville has reached a $4.5 million settlement with former athletic director Tom Jurich, who was fired in the wake of a national federal corruption investigation of college basketball.

Jurich disputed his Oct. 18 firing for cause after nearly 20 years as AD and had considered suing the school. The University of Louisville Athletic Association and Board of Trustees on Friday approved the settlement. Jurich’s employment ended “without cause” as a result of his resignation, also described in the settlement as “retirement.”

He’ll also receive another $2.6 million in accrued employment benefits, along with home game tickets and parking for Louisville football and basketball for 20 years.

An audit of the University of Louisville Foundation released last June showed that Jurich averaged annual compensation of more than $2.76 million from 2010-16, including more than $5.35 million in 2016.

Then-interim president Greg Postel had placed Jurich on paid administrative leave in September after the school’s acknowledgement of its involvement in the investigation. Trustees voted 10-3 to fire Jurich, two days after the ULAA unanimously fired Hall of Fame men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino.

The former AD said in a joint statement that he “spent the better part of my career” working with dedicated athletes, coaches and staff to elevate Louisville. He added, “I am proud of what we accomplished, which is well documented.”

Jurich’s legal team had stressed that the ex-AD did nothing illegal and hadn’t violated NCAA rules.

Trustee chairman J. David Grissom said in the statement that “Everyone is pleased that this matter has been successfully resolved. All parties can move forward to begin the next chapter.”

Jurich played a major role in Louisville’s success on the field and how the school handled issues off it. He led the school’s 2014 entry into the Atlantic Coast Conference and oversaw numerous program and facility upgrades, including a $63 million expansion of the football stadium due for completion by fall.

He also hired several successful coaches including Pitino, who guided the Cardinals to the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball championship. Louisville ultimately vacated that title in February as part of NCAA penalties for a sex scandal after an escort’s book allegations that former basketball staffer Andre McGee hired her and other dancers to strip and have sex with players and recruits.

Pitino has filed a $38.7 million federal lawsuit against Louisville, alleging breach of contract.