ALBANY — Dwayne Killings will return as the head coach of the UAlbany men’s basketball team, but will face penalties, after the university concluded an investigation of what it called an incident of physical contact between Killings and one of his players.
UAlbany released a statement Saturday afternoon outlining a sequence of events that included a complaint filed on Feb. 27 about the incident, an investigation while Killings was on leave as head coach and substantiation of “inappropriate physical contact between Coach Killings and a student-athlete during a pre-game hype circle immediately prior to a road game on November 24, 2021 . . .”
Killings will serve a five-game suspension and pay a $25,000 fine that will be directed to a local not-for-profit organization of UAlbany’s choosing.
The Daily Gazette reported the details of Killings’ suspension and fine, and confirmation of his return as head coach, shortly before UAlbany released its statement. Multiple media reports had reported Friday night that Killings was expected to stay as the team’s coach.
The UAlbany release included an attachment to a letter from Killings, who was hired prior to the 2021-22 season, addressed to university president Havidan Rodriguez in which Killings apologized to Rodriguez, “the student-athlete, his family, the UAlbany community, the Capital Region community, our student-athletes, my staff, and all those who I humbly represent . . .”
Killings did not respond to a request from the Gazette for further comment, and UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson declined to comment beyond the university statement.
The head coach refers to Nov. 24, 2021, as the date when the incident occurred, and his letter continues, “I realize that the physical contact I had with the student-athlete during the pre-game hype circle was inappropriate, and not communicating it to the UAlbany administration was a mistake.”
The university release refers to the episode of physical contact as “an isolated incident,” based on what the investigation turned up.
While neither the university release nor Killings’ letter identify the player involved in the incident, WNYT Sports Director Rodger Wyland, who is also the UAlbany men’s basketball play-by-play announcer, first reported that it was Luke Fizulich, which was confirmed by the Gazette through a source.
Fizulich did not respond this week to requests from the Gazette for comment.
After the complaint was filed on Feb. 27, a day after Fizulich played six minutes in a loss at Stony Brook, UAlbany played two games during the first week of March. Fizulich did not play in either. He was the first of three UAlbany players to enter the NCAA transfer portal after the season ended.
The Nov. 24 game before which the incident occurred was a 64-62 UAlbany win over Eastern Illinois at the Eastern Kentucky Invitational tournament, Killings’ first victory after an 0-5 start since replacing longtime head coach Will Brown.
The “hype circle” referred to in the UAlbany release and Killings’ apology letter is a common locker room practice before games in which players motivate each other by aggressively banging into each other to stir up emotion and adrenaline.
According to the database available at www.seethroughny.net, Killings’ rate of pay is $372,300.
He served as head coach for every game during the 13-18 season, despite the complaint having been filed prior to the regular-season finale on March 1 against Hartford at SEFCU Arena. UAlbany finished with a loss at Hartford in the America East quarterfinals on March 6.
Here’s the full university statement:
“The University at Albany has concluded its investigation into the men’s basketball program. The following is a brief synopsis of the resolution:
“On Feb. 27, 2022, the University received a complaint against head men’s basketball coach Dwayne Killings. The University immediately began an investigation and took timely and appropriate action at each stage as new information became available, including temporarily placing Coach Killings on an alternative assignment to protect the integrity and confidentiality of the inquiry and the rights of all parties involved.
“Coach Killings participated in this inquiry consistent with the rights and due process afforded him under the collective bargaining agreement between United University Professions and New York State. The investigation included interviews with all parties and all known witnesses who were willing to participate.
“The University’s investigation substantiated that there was inappropriate physical contact between Coach Killings and a student-athlete during a pre-game hype circle immediately prior to a road game on November 24, 2021, and that the incident was never reported to administration. The University’s investigation further concluded that this was an isolated incident. Coach Killings has acknowledged his error, apologized, and expressed regret, and the University believes he can continue to effectively lead the UAlbany men’s basketball program.
“The University and Coach Killings have agreed to a resolution, including a five-game suspension to be served during the 2022-23 basketball season, a $25,000 fine to be donated to a local not-for-profit organization selected at the sole discretion of the University, and mandatory training on University reporting policies.”
Following is the letter submitted by Killings, dated April 2:
“Dear President Rodriguez,
“When I first learned of the UAlbany head coach candidacy I thought it was the perfect place to start my career as a Division I Head Coach, and the perfect place to raise my children.
“It was immediately clear to me that Albany was a community hungry to be engaged — it was an ideal fit. When I accepted the position, I remarked that it was my dream come true. I believed that then and continue to believe that now.
“My players have often heard me say that I love them, I’ve invested so much of myself in them, which has yielded rewards for all of us both on and off the court. On November 24, 2021, I neglected to represent that, and I would like to apologize to you, the student-athlete, his family, the UAlbany community, the Capital Region community, our student-athletes, my staff, and all those who I humbly represent. I realize that the physical contact I had with the student-athlete during the pre-game hype circle was inappropriate, and not communicating it to the UAlbany administration was a mistake. Neither action will be repeated, and the pursuit of success within my program is of paramount importance.
“When you hired me, you said that throughout the interview process I established myself as a person of high character and integrity. I remain as committed, as I was on Day One, to continue to exemplify the trust that you, the Capital Region, and the UAlbany community have placed with me as the coach, leader, father, husband, and man you believe me to be.
Gazette Sports Editor Michael Kelly contributed to this story.