Probably the story I worked on the hardest throughout the year at Monmouth, so I figured I’d share it on here. Enjoy.
Head Basketball Coach Dave Calloway announced that four of his players – juniors Will Campbell, Matt Pritchet, Gary Cox, and first-year student Jordan Davis – were suspended for the remainder of the season due to academic reasons on Tuesday, January 4. All four athletes had GPAs below the minimum 2.0, which is required of all athletes by the NCAA in order to be eligible.
“We hold our players to certain academic standards. Playing basketball for Monmouth is a privilege not a right. It is up to them to learn from this experience and to be more responsible in the classroom,” said Calloway.
Currently, the team is playing with eight players. Their record is 6-18 overall, having gone 2-10 in NEC play. While the team suits up night after night and have been praised for their efforts, but the team has gone 1-9 and have lost five of these games by three points or less since losing the four players.
The Department of Athletics Office stated the players’ grades are not where they need to be in order for them to be eligible to play here at the University.
Tony Graham, who has been covering Monmouth Athletics for the Asbury Park Press since 1983, said he has never seen anything like this happen at the University in all the years he has covered the Hawks. “I’ve seen multiple suspensions happen at other schools throughout the years, but to see it happen at Monmouth is unprecedented,” said Graham. “There had to be some sort of fumbling of the ball that occurred. Whether it be on the athletes or athletics, somebody missed something.”
University President Paul G. Gaffney II also discussed how he regrets losing players due to academic reasons and how it is unusual here at the University. “I regret losing members of any team, but academics come first. We, and they, need to work hard now to get them on a good academic track. Men’s basketball has, over the years, had a model academic record when compared to peers and national averages,” said Gaffney, who himself was a member of the track team as an undergraduate at the U.S. Naval Academy.
“Athletics monitors the academic progress of all of our student athletes through mid¬term grades and MEWS reports, one-on-one meetings, study hall, etc. All of these student-athletes were on our watch list, and many people were working with them to keep them on the right track,” said Athletics Director Dr. Marilyn McNeil. “However, at the end of the day, it is their responsibility to take care of their academic work. This lesson is a hard one to learn, but one that must be learned.”
Outlook reporters invited the athletic department personnel charged with academic student development to comment in this story, but they did not answer inquiries.
Junior guard Will Campbell, one of the suspended players, is saddened by the fact that his season was cut short. “I just feel terrible. I should be on the floor helping my team, but instead I am suspended because I did not want to put a full effort into school. I knew I needed to do my work, but I didn’t take the initiative to do that. I devoted my-self to the gym, but I did not do the same for school. It is no one’s fault but my own,” lamented Campbell. Campbell was also suspended for one game back on November 19 for academic reasons as well.
“The program has been down for a couple of years now, and to only have eight eligible men this season certainly does not help the hopes of turning things around. The team continues to play competitively, but the effects of the suspensions are very clear” said former team manager Charles Kruzits.
Senior guard James Hett and sophomore forward Ed Waite are both feeling the effects of playing without four of their teammates. “It’s tough. We’re all upset about it, but we have to change and we have to try to adjust on the fly during conference season,” said Hett.
“We have fewer guys, but the guys who are able to play can get it done. The last couple games we only lost by two or three points. I think we would be a different team if we did have them, but we don’t. We got to play with the cards we have,” said Waite.
“I’m proud of the players who have been playing. These eight men – three seniors, two juniors, and three sophomores – have played their hearts out and have given it all they have in each game,” said Coach Calloway.
Assistant Sports Editor Ed Morlock covers the Men’s Basketball team and feels that maybe the sea¬son could have had a different out¬come, had the athletes kept their grades up. “The team is playing with great effort on the court, but is still struggling to win games. It gives people the idea to think of what could have been this season, had the suspensions never occurred. With the way the Hawks are playing, no one can say that if they had their full line up they could not be up there with the best in the NEC,” said Morlock.
Professor Matt Harmon, who is the voice of the football team on the commercial TV station and an adjunct professor in the communi¬cation department for over 10 years, feels that the team is faced with, “a very rotten situation.” “It’s unfortunate for the guys who are playing and for the school. It is very disappointing and they could have had more of a chance for a much better sea¬son than the one they are having,” said Harmon.
Not only is this a disappointing situation for the players and the school, but it has also discouraging to other athletes as well. “As an athlete, I feel like athletes should be held to a higher standard and that players should worry more about grades than sports sometimes. It angers me to see athletes like this get full rides to college and then do horribly academic wise and then don’t have the grades to be able to play,” said the athlete, who preferred to remain anonymous. “The athletic department does a lot to help student athletes. It’s a shame to see them [not] take advantage of the opportunity that is given to them.”
According to Calloway, all four of the suspended players are currently working very hard in school so that they will be able to play again next season. They also continue to help out the team by doing service in the community. A few weeks ago, the coach points out, they helped out in an autism clinic, while the rest of the team was playing in a game.
“They’re going to have to learn to be more accountable for their work, even though we will be fol¬lowing them more closely. It is still up to the athletes to be more responsible and to know that services are here to help, but it comes down to the students to do their work. That’s what they need to learn,” said Calloway.
Editor’s Note: The University was not in session when the story initially broke in early January. Assistant Athletics Director for Communications initially declined the paper’s request to speak with sources from Athletics, who felt “it wasn’t appropiate at this time” to cover the issue. At that point, reporters reached out to sources on their own, and this week’s story is the result of the inquiries