LOUDONVILLE — An NCAA investigation into the stewardship of the Siena men’s basketball program during the final years of Jimmy Patsos leading the team is complete, as the school was notified Monday that several Level II NCAA violations had been committed and of its punishment.
Siena formally learned of its violations on the eve of the MAAC tournament, which this season’s Saints enter as the top seed. Punishment from the NCAA will not affect the program’s eligibility to compete for a spot in this year’s NCAA tournament, which the Saints have not played in since 2010.
“There’s no postseason ban,” Siena Athletic Director John D’Argenio said Monday, shortly after the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions released its report. “There’s nothing like that.”
The four violations for the school’s program included providing impermissible benefits to student-athletes, impermissible coaching activity, a failure of the head coach to promote an atmosphere of compliance and failing to stop a program booster from interfering in the investigation.
The report does not name Patsos — or anyone, for that matter — but he was the coach for the 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons in which violations were committed. Additionally, the report reads that Patsos (referred to as the head coach throughout) “violated ethical conduct legislation when he knowingly provided false or misleading information during the investigation about his involvement in a benefits violation.”
Siena received three years probation, a $5,000 fine, will need to disassociate through March 8, 2023 from the unnamed booster who interfered in the NCAA investigation, and vacate records achieved during the games from those three seasons in which it used ineligible players. Patsos, who resigned from Siena in 2018, also received a three-year show-cause order.
Siena is likely to need to vacate every win from each of the 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons as part of its punishment, D’Argenio said Monday, while individual statistics for players from those seasons are also likely to all be wiped out because they were “technically ineligible” for those games. Siena finished 46-54 during those three seasons.
Players received impermissible cash payments during the three seasons in question, according to the NCAA’s report, while several players also received impermissible long-distance transportation from staff members at the head coach’s direction. In all, 28 different players received some form of an impermissible benefit during those seasons.
“On multiple occasions during the 2015-16 through 2017-18 academic years, the head coach gave cash payments to student-athletes in the team locker room after games to share with the team,” the NCAA report reads. “He made these payments at least once per semester. Several staff members and student-athletes referred to the payments as ‘ice cream money.’ The student-athletes who received the payments shared the money with their teammates. Several staff members and student-athletes reported that the head coach gave the payments as a type of reward and intended the money to be used toward team parties. The head coach denied this characterization and submitted that he intended the student-athletes to use the money on food as a permissible ‘occasional meal’ under NCAA legislation. Regardless of his intent, he did not seek guidance from the compliance staff regarding the permissibility of the payments.”
The report continues: “Although the parties agree that the payments were made, the investigation did not confirm the exact number of payments, the dollar amounts of the payments or the identity of every student-athlete who ultimately benefited from the payments. Nonetheless, the head coach made at least two payments each academic year. He stated that the payments were $60 to $80 each. Others indicated that the amounts were $100 or more. The panel finds that the amounts of the payments were within the general ranges of $60 to $80 and $100 or more.”
The NCAA report also detailed a separate incident in which a payment was made to a player.
“Separate from this ‘ice cream money,’ the head coach gave a cash payment of approximately $100 to a student-athlete in a weight room on campus during team strength and conditioning activities. While the head coach also provided the student-athlete ‘ice cream money,’ this payment occurred in the fall of 2017 before the start of the season. During his April 20, 2018, interview, the head coach denied that the payment occurred. The student-athlete, however, acknowledged receiving cash from the head coach in a weight room. The student-athlete also stated that the amount was ‘like a hundred[,] tops.’ The assistant strength coach provided an eyewitness account of the payment. He recalled that the bills were rolled or folded in a ‘wad of cash’ and delivered to the student-athlete in a handshake-like manner. He verified when the payment occurred. He also noted that typically coaches — particularly the head coach — did not appear in the weight room for team strength and conditioning activities. The assistant strength coach explained that he did not report the incident because he thought that the payment may have been related to the student-athlete’s participation in a camp.”
The impermissible cash payments and transportation received made those players “technically ineligible,” which is why Siena is likely to need to forfeit every win from those seasons. D’Argenio said the athletic department has two weeks to report back to the NCAA on that matter.
Siena’s current roster includes three players — Manny Camper, Ben Diamond and Sammy Friday — who played in any of the affected seasons. D’Argenio said Siena’s players regained eligibility by donating money to charity prior to the start of the 2018-19 season.
“Anybody that had gotten dollars impermissibly, they all paid the money back to charities of their choice, and it ranged anywhere from $11 to $100, I think,” D’Argenio said.
Jamion Christian led Siena’s program during the 2018-19 season, while Carmen Maciariello is currently the team’s head coach.
“It is what it is. I wasn’t at the helm,” Maciariello said of the NCAA’s report on Siena’s violation. “I know our compliance [department] and our athletic director have done the necessary steps to rectify those problems.”
Siena’s violation related to impermissible coaching activity during the 2017-18 season involved the program’s director of basketball operations — Pete Durr — providing coaching instruction during practices and games, which is not allowed.
The violation related to the activity of a booster started when a “prominent booster initiated contact with the assistant strength coach to attempt to influence him to recant information he had reported about the head coach during the investigation. The assistant strength coach had first-hand knowledge of the head coach's cash payment to a student-athlete in a weight room. The booster's conduct extended the investigation.”
The report continues: “The booster was well-known on campus. He is the president and former owner of a company with its headquarters located near the institution. The booster made multiple donations to the athletics department over the years and was a men's basketball season ticketholder. He was typically on campus three-to-four times per week to work out at the athletics complex. The booster was initially presented to the head coach as an important individual to the Siena family and the men's basketball program. The booster and head coach became very good friends. Over the course of their friendship, the two remained in regular contact and socialized when given the opportunity.
“In October 2018, the enforcement staff gave the head coach access to the case file that contained information supporting the allegation pertaining to the cash payment in the weight room. Shortly thereafter, on October 29, 2018, the booster had two exchanges with the assistant strength coach regarding his eyewitness account of the payment. . . . The booster first approached the assistant strength coach outside the athletics complex at around 4:30 p.m. The booster broached the topic of the assistant strength coach's report of witnessing this cash payment. The assistant strength coach believed that the booster was trying to help the head coach with the investigation. The former head strength and conditioning coach [head strength coach] approached the booster and assistant strength coach and interrupted their conversation. After talking as a group for a short while about another topic, they entered the athletics complex together. Shortly after the assistant strength coach arrived at his office inside the athletics complex, the booster unexpectedly entered and re-initiated their conversation about the payment.
“During the exchanges, the booster made statements intended to intimidate and persuade the assistant strength coach into recanting what he had previously reported. In particular, the booster told the assistant strength coach that he did not believe the allegations. He advised the assistant strength coach that he should not want to be involved in the matter and to say — if asked — that he did not remember anything about the payment. The booster also talked about the assistant strength coach's future job prospects.”
Siena’s position, as outlined in the NCAA’s report, was that it “agreed that the events occurred as alleged, [but] it argued that it should not be held accountable for the booster’s conduct. The institution pointed toward the booster's relationship with the head coach and contended that the head coach likely knew of or encouraged the booster's conduct. Siena submitted that the booster's conduct was contrary to Siena's position and interests and the booster intended to help the head coach, who was no longer employed by Siena when he violated ethical conduct legislation.”
Schools, though, are responsible for their boosters.
“The panel acknowledges the relationship between the head coach and booster but does not find, nor was it alleged, that the head coach knew of or encouraged the booster's interference,” the NCAA report reads. “Even if the booster acted contrary to Siena's position and interests and tried to help the head coach, Siena must still control the booster and is responsible for his conduct.”
The NCAA’s report noted that its investigation represented Siena’s “first Level I, Level II or major infractions case.” D’Argenio said Siena will “continue to educate” and have more “monitoring” in order to reduce the chances a similar situation will occur in the future. The school self-reported violations to the NCAA approximately 18 months ago, and has worked with the organization for a little more than a year to work toward the resolution that was reached Monday.
Asked if the timing of the report’s release two days before Siena plays in the MAAC quarterfinals took away from the success of the Saints’ season, D’Argenio said it didn’t.
“Actually, I think it kind of helps us,” he said. “It puts everything to bed. It puts this behind us. We understand what we did wrong. We understand what coaches at the time did wrong. Took the corrective action, and now it’s done. It’s over.”