Former Fairfield basketball players allege violations

Updated: August 5, 2003, 5:36 PM ET

FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- Fairfield University said Tuesday it will initiate an independent investigation into allegations of NCAA rules violations lodged by former men's basketball players.

Several former players accuse the coaching staff of giving cash to players, falsifying drug tests, and doing schoolwork for members of the team, the Connecticut Post reported Tuesday.

The alleged violations were committed during current head coach Tim O'Toole's tenure, the newspaper reported.

Fairfield issued a statement Tuesday saying it has retained an outside law firm, Bond Schoeneck & King, of Overland Park, Kan., to investigate the allegations. The firm has a higher education division and staff members whose specialties are intercollegiate athletics and NCAA regulations.

"These charges are very serious and every effort will be made to uncover the truth," said the Rev. Aloysius P. Kelley, the school's president. "We will simply not tolerate any improprieties within the program."

On Monday, Fairfield athletic director Gene Doris told the Post that an internal investigation of the program in March found no evidence of wrongdoing. That investigation was launched after an anonymous letter was sent to Kelley.

The university said Tuesday's article in the Post contained "additional, more specific information" that is causing the university to reopen the investigation.

The accusations come from former player Oscar Garcia and two former players who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity.

Garcia, who graduated in May, told the Post he received two $600 payments during his junior season to pay the tax on his scholarship. Garcia also said he witnessed an assistant coach persuade a player to falsify a drug test last season.

Garcia said an assistant coach also wrote term papers for a member of the team. The coach joked about the grades he would get, Garcia told the newspaper.

Garcia said coaches also told him they had access to a term paper on Adolf Hitler and Spanish dictator Francisco Franco if Garcia wanted it for a history class. Garcia said he declined the offer.

Garcia was on academic probation during the 2000-01 season.

Jermaine Clark, who played at Fairfield for three years before he was dismissed from the team in 2001, told the Post that several players falsified drug tests during his junior season and that the coaching staff was aware of the false urine specimens.

"All they told us was don't fail the test," Clark said. "They knew guys were smoking (marijuana). Nobody failed the test, but half the team smokes? They knew at least half the team smoked."

A former player who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Post he took regular payments from a team booster.

Coach O'Toole referred comments to his attorney, Jim Zeszutek.

"I think you have to look at the people making the accusations," Zeszutek said. "I think it's unfortunate that these people have taken this approach to demonstrate their unhappiness with their basketball careers and the university. Mr. O'Toole will be fully exonerated of any charges against him."

O'Toole, 39, a Fairfield graduate, recently signed a multiyear contract. He became coach on April 2, 1998.

Fairfield officials said they are contacting the NCAA and the commissioner of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference to apprise them of the situation.

The NCAA does not comment on whether it is investigating a college or university, said Kay Hawes, a spokeswoman.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index