- The Washington Times - Monday, August 25, 2003

The president of the University of the District of Columbia has taken steps to prevent a repeat of the NCAA violations that forced UDC’s men’s soccer team to forfeit most of its winning season last year, the president’s office said in a statement.

UDC President William L. Pollard said an internal audit of the athletic program identified two ineligible players on the soccer team. The university reported the violations to the NCAA, which resulted in the mandatory forfeiture of 14 of the team’s 20 regular-season games.

“The university at the time did not have an effective system to identify and track students who became ineligible as a result of dropping classes during competition,” Mr. Pollard stated. “The university has since implemented a tracking and monitoring program through the Office of the Registrar to identify such occurrences, as well as other initiatives to strengthen the program.”

The forfeitures erased from last year’s record books all but one of the UDC Firebirds’ wins and the team’s appearance in the NCAA Division II tournament. It was the land-grant university’s first NCAA appearance since the women’s basketball team qualified in 1995.

The Firebirds had finished the regular season with a 14-4-2 record and were ranked 18th in Division II, but the forfeitures resulted in a 1-18-1 season, the UDC athletic department said. The Firebirds had worked their way up through Division II rankings since the NCAA imposed a three-year probation on the athletics program in 1991 for 13 violations in five of its nine sports.

The audit also found an ineligible player on the men’s basketball team, prompting the NCAA to demand the forfeiture of one of the team’s 26 regular-season games. The team’s record went from 19-7 to 18-8, the UDC athletics department said. The university last month advised opponents of the forfeitures.

University officials close to the athletics program said the soccer team’s use of ineligible players is symptomatic of rampant abuses in UDC’s athletics program, including the payment of excessive grant and student-aid dollars to athletes.

Sydney O. Hall, chairman of the University Senate Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics, sent a letter to Mr. Pollard last week that criticized the administration’s failure to fix problems in the athletics department and the president’s recent appearance on radio shows promoting UDC athletics.

The Washington Times has obtained a copy of the letter, which is dated Aug. 20.

In his letter, Mr. Hall cited an October meeting in which Mr. Pollard was advised of the many “urgent and serious” problems within the athletics program. “Nothing of significance has been done to correct the many infractions and violations in the athletic program,” the letter states.

University spokesman Mike Andrews said Mr. Hall’s letter represents one individual’s viewpoint and that Mr. Pollard would not debate the issue in a newspaper.

“Professor Hall has voiced concerns to President Pollard, and we feel that these concerns have been addressed,” Mr. Andrews said.

The athletics violations add to the long-standing troubles at the District’s only public institution of higher education, which in past years has been beset by financial mismanagement, poor academic performance and accreditation concerns.

Mr. Pollard this year has been criticized for his spending priorities, hiring of friends for high-paying jobs and inattention to maintenance needs at the university.

The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance is investigating whether he has violated city ethics laws by hiring a family friend as the school’s provost.

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