- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2004

The University of the District of Columbia gave free housing to student athletes in violation of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules — misconduct that might have contributed to cancellation of the men’s and women’s basketball seasons this year, school officials say in an internal memorandum.

The memorandum, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, provided a glimpse into the extent of the problems in the university’s athletic department. School officials have cited widespread use of academically ineligible players on UDC Firebirds teams but have given no details of other misconduct.

The Times first reported last November that the NCAA was investigating improprieties in the land-grant university’s sports program, including the use of academically ineligible players, misuse of financial-aid funds and mismanagement of proceeds from ticket and concessions sales at Firebirds’ games.

The school also broke NCAA rules by permitting student athletes to receive both financial aid and free accommodations at the Woodner Apartments, according to the Oct. 27 memorandum from John A. Turner, assistant to UDC Vice President for Student Affairs Clemmie Solomon.

The memorandum was addressed to all members of the UDC athletic program and sought to curtail what it characterized as an “intolerable” situation at the Woodner Apartments.

“Too many students are living in rooms that they have no right or permission to live in,” the memorandum said. “For each day that a student on financial aid is living within the Woodner in conditions violating NCAA rules, we incur another NCAA violation.”

Monthly rent at the Woodner Apartments, located in the 3600 block of 16th Street NW, range from $785 for a studio apartment to as much as $1,250 for a two-bedroom apartment.

UDC spokesman Mike Andrews was unable this past weekend to confirm how much the school spent housing student athletes or whether the problems had been corrected.

The memorandum warned students against continuing to participate in the violations.

“If we determine that any student-athlete living in the Woodner has become a willing participant in harboring an ineligible athlete in his or her room, that offending student-athlete will lose his or her scholarship and all other benefits bestowed by the University,” the memorandum said. “This is your fair notice.”

UDC’s athletic department has been in flux since it became apparent the NCAA likely would penalize the school’s Division II sports program. However, school officials have said their internal investigation and self-imposed remedies may pre-empt punitive action by the NCAA.

Earlier this month, UDC President William L. Pollard announced the cancellation of the Firebirds’ basketball seasons and raised the possibility of canceling next year’s seasons because of numerous NCAA violations.

Mr. Pollard forced athletic director Michael A. McLeese to resign in September, though he retained the job of men’s basketball coach and a $72,425 annual salary. He was placed on paid administrative leave when the season was canceled.

The men’s basketball team, which has an average home-game attendance of 300, finished the 2002-03 season with a record of 18-9 and made an appearance in the NCAA Division II East Regional Tournament.

The woman’s basketball team finished last season with a 13-14 record, with an average home-game attendance of 150.

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