BREAKING: Canisius basketball players suspended

Two members of the Canisius College men’s basketball team have been suspended from the team in connection with an on-campus theft.

“A couple of guys made a poor error in judgment,” men’s basketball coach Tom Parrotta said. “It’s being sorted out with the other side of campus [Public Safety], and it’s certainly going to be sorted out by me very quickly.”

The athletic department released a statement Thursday confirming the suspensions.

“The student-athletes are cooperating with the campus inquiry, and the College is reviewing the incident in accordance with our Community Standards,” athletic director Bill Maher said in the statement. “We are disappointed in their decision and at this time, they have been suspended from the program. Their status will be reevaluated at the conclusion of the campus process.”

Maher confirmed in a phone interview that the players are indefinitely suspended from the team. There is speculation as to which players may be involved, but none of those names have been confirmed.

Director of Public Safety Gary Everett would not confirm the names of any students involved or any programs they may be affiliated with, but a report was filed on Feb. 21 citing that two iPods and cash were taken from a freshman dorm room in Frisch Hall.

Parrotta confirmed that he visited that dorm room Wednesday night to discuss the matter with the students whose items were stolen, which are valued around $500.

“I apologized on behalf of the program,” Parrotta said. “It was a very good meeting. It was important for them to know that me, as head of this program, for what it’s worth, we apologize.”

Parrotta said he brought a basketball player with him to the meeting but did not say if that player was one of the two suspended.

No criminal charges were filed and none are expected according to Public Safety. Director of Residence Life Matthew Mulville said on Wednesday that he was aware of the incident in Frisch but could not comment on the identities of any parties involved.

The victims of the theft, who asked not to be named for fear of their own safety, said the incident occurred over Presidents’ Day weekend (Feb. 19-21) while they were out of the room. The victims’ suitemate said that after a party, he returned to his room with several members of the basketball team to get his wallet before going to McDonald’s.

The suitemate estimated he was in his room for two minutes at most. When he left his room, he remembers the players being in the common room and hallway.

When the two roommates returned to their room, they noticed their devices were missing, and one found his wallet lying empty on his desk. Although they usually lock the inside door to their room as well as the outside door to the hallway, the roommates said their inside door was left unlocked that night.

According to the roommates, the items that were taken included a 32 GB iPod touch, valued at $300; the case the iPod was in, a Speck X Burton Fitted Case valued at $40; an iPod nano, valued at $200; and approximately $35 in cash. The Public Safety report included the iPods and the cash, but valued the iPod nano at $100 and did not mention a case.

After the missing iPods were reported, Public Safety began an investigation. Missing items are usually hard to locate, but the Internet feature on the iPod touch gave Public Safety a lead. Everett said that two days after the theft, the student reregistered the iPod to Canisius Internet, which made it traceable.

Then, by using the tracking feature, looking at surveillance video and following swipe card usage, Public Safety was able to find the thief. According to Public Safety, when confronted with the information, the student admitted to taking the iPod touch, but not the nano or the cash. A second student later admitted to taking the iPod nano.

Public Safety did not say when they would be making a move to recover the items, but the roommates received written formal notice there was “a significant development in the investigation of [their] missing iPod[s]” early Tuesday afternoon.

The roommates said they are glad their items were returned by the student-athletes, and they very much appreciated that Parrotta paid them a personal visit.

Parrotta said he has briefly met with student-athletes involved in the situation, but could not comment on the identities of the players.

“When [Bill Maher] gets all the facts and I get all the facts and I talk to the guys, we’ll sit down and decide what the best thing is for, ultimately, the program.”

The men’s basketball team’s season officially ended last Saturday night after the Griffs lost to Rider in the quarterfinals of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, 79-64.

By all accounts, Public Safety usually handles this type of situation relatively quickly. Once its investigation is finished, the Athletic Department, and more specifically, the men’s basketball team, will have its chance to take action asking the student-athletes involved.

Read my full story here on The Griffin Newspaper website here.