In an apparently unrelated but parallel development to the ongoing investigation of four St. Francis Brooklyn men’s basketball players, it was reported Tuesday by Cormac Gordon of the Staten Island Examiner that Wagner College junior Jay Harris, the Seahawks’ leading three-point threat, has been suspended for the remainder of the season for what has been described as a violation of school policy.
Ominously, this is the same violation that was cited in connection with junior Brent Jones, freshman Wayne Martin, junior P.J. Santavenere and sophomore Anthony White, all of whom were suspended indefinitely prior to St. Francis’ home contest last Saturday against Robert Morris University. Largely as a result of their absence, the Terriers (15-10; 6-4 NEC) dropped a 72-50 decision to the Colonials (13-11), who currently lead the Northeast Conference (NEC) with a 9-1 record.
On Tuesday, St. Francis President Brendan J. Dugan released a statement to the St. Francis community regarding a continuing inquiry into the players’ infractions. President Dugan mentioned that a fifth student was being investigated for allegedly violating the St. Francis College Code of Conduct.
President Dugan also stated that “outside agencies may also be reviewing this matter”—implying that any actions under investigation my carry penalties beyond those to be meted out by St. Francis.
While there is no apparent connection between the suspension of Jay Harris and the four St. Francis players, what is noteworthy is that Mr. Harris’ transgressions represent the third major incident to befall NEC basketball in the last three weeks. On January 24, Robert Morris announced that four of its men’s basketball players—Evan Grey, Britton Lee, Shaire Tolson-Ford and Jeremiah Worthem—were suspended for one year for what the university also described as violations of university policy.
According to multiple news reports, all four of the players have left the university and will be required to reapply for admission in order to return to Robert Morris next year.
When reached about the rash of suspensions at the NEC men’s basketball programs, Ralph Ventre, Northeast Conference Director of Communications, declined comment, explaining that the recent infractions were not imposed by the conference. However, the embarrassing glut of suspended athletes certainly puts a tarnish on what had been a recent run of positive press for the ten-member conference, all of whose membership lie within driving distance of New York City.
The New York Times recently profiled Jason Brickman, NEC member LIU Brooklyn’s stellar senior point guard; Bashir Mason, the head coach of the Wagner men’s basketball team; and successful women’s bowling programs at NEC schools. In addition, the Barclays Center now serves as a regular venue for St. Francis Brooklyn and LIU Brooklyn basketball games and for the past two years has been host to the Northeast Conference’s annual media day.
The impact of the suspensions on the programs is likely to be significant, as Robert Morris, St. Francis and Wagner, each of whom was considered a strong contender for the 2014 NEC men’s basketball championship, now face difficult paths in the upcoming NEC playoffs.
For St. Francis, which has never won a NEC title nor qualified for the NCAA men’s tournament, possible season-long absences by Jones, Martin and White would be potentially fatal to what Robert DeVita of St. Francis Today described as “the team’s most serious campaign in the NEC tournament in years.”
But the season carries on. St. Francis Coach Glenn Braica’s remaining eligible players still have important games to play, in particular the annual Battle of Brooklyn matchup at Barclays Center this Sunday at 4 p.m. against arch-rival LIU Brooklyn.
Photo: President Brendan J. Dugan, St. Francis College, Brooklyn. Courtesy St. Francis Media Relations