Updated: Jan 24, 2019
Just a month after an indefinite leave of absence rocked the Salisbury University men’s basketball team, details continue to come forward surrounding former head coach Andrew Sachs’ departure.
After staying silent since appointing Brian McDermott as interim head coach on Oct. 2, SU Athletics published a press release confirming the rumors around campus. Sachs would not be returning to coach at SU.
The statement, which came on Oct. 25, explained that Sachs’ decision to not return came following an agreement with SU officials.
The permanence of the departure has been one of multiple rumors circling Maggs Physical Activities Center, as many students and athletes alike wondered what led to this sudden announcement in the first place. At the forefront of the rumor mill was talk of NCAA rules violations.
Those rumors as well would be substantiated by Sachs breaking his month-long silence that same day with a written statement of his own through Delmarva Now.
“Coach Sachs remains adamant that he has committed no violations of NCAA rules contrary to the University’s assertions,” the statement read. “He has built an upstanding program that is a great ambassador for the university.”
This statement served as the first mention of reasoning behind the decision that outed Sachs from his position, though there has been no mention of the details surrounding it from the university.
Fast forward to Nov. 1, just nine days before the Gulls welcome Arcadia into Salisbury to begin their upcoming season, and more fuel has been added to the fire.
Through another written statement from Sachs to Delmarva Now, the complete details of one side of the story have come to light, three pages full of details that sum up for Sachs what culminated in his exit.
Throughout the statement, it is explained that during his three-year tenure at SU before this season, Sachs committed two secondary violations through the NCAA, the first of which came in March of 2016.
“We had Lucas Martin on campus and we put ‘pick up with players’ on his itinerary. My 7 year old son was in my office for over an hour, so we went into the gym to shoot on the side,” the statement read. “The players started to play and our AD walked in.”
Martin, now a junior forward on the SU squad, was a senior in high school at the time visiting the campus.
Following the infraction, Sachs’ statement explains that he had to watch an NCAA video, and in the future, send all recruit itineraries to Associate Athletic Director Dr. Dawn Chamberlin.
The statement continues on with an explanation of the second violation that centered around meal tickets for recruits during the year. As a rule, recruits are given one meal ticket on unofficial visits and then another along with parents on their official visits.
Once the year of recruiting is completed, coaches submit their meal card lists to the athletic department, which is where errors were noticed.
“We had a couple of recruits take two visits to campus during the year and they mistakenly received their $11 meal tickets for their family twice,” the statement said. “So I got a call from our AD and asked if what I wrote down was true and I said yes … He said it was another violation.”
Sachs says that he admitted to Athletic Director Dr. Gerry DiBartolo that he must have made a mistake. He goes on to explain that he contacted the NCAA for clarification on the rule, where a representative informed him that the penalty was simply to pay restitution for the extra meals.
Per Sachs, the administration instead went on to hand down more of a punishment following the violation, having Sachs attend the national rules meeting in Denver and also the next three regional rules meetings. It also became a new requirement that Sachs was limited to one meal ticket per recruit for the year, and that all meal tickets would come through Chamberlin.
According to the statement, that decision played a hand later on as Sachs found himself combating officials again with claims of meal ticket violations.
Per Sachs, as he was away from his office while receiving surgery, an envelope with meal tickets was placed on his desk. Upon returning, he found the envelope and was told none of his assistants put it there.
Sachs explains through the statement that at this point in time, the situation surrounding former Sea Gull forward Jack Ferguson began to unfold, which took up a large portion of his time and focus.
According to Sachs, through doctor’s visits, tests and Ferguson returning to Canada, there were still recruits planning to visit campus as school began.
“All of their itineraries were emailed to Dawn Chamberlin and nothing was said about the meal tickets not being in her possession. A week before our team camp … I was summoned to the AD’s office and asked why the meal tickets weren’t in Dawn’s possession,” the statement said.
Sachs also explained that along with a major focus being on Ferguson’s well-being, he also had his family to take care of while his wife worked multiple jobs along with getting his players settled in with classes and the semester.
Per the statement, through all the commotion, Sachs told DiBartolo and Chamberlin that he had not thought about it and that she could get them from his office, telling them he used one ticket per recruit like he was told to do. His statement repeats multiple times that there were five total meal tickets used.
“They had the 5 itineraries that had been already sent to Dawn before each recruit visited, she never said a word about not having the tickets in her possession for 3 weeks and we had 5 names on the meal ticket list,” the statement said.
Sachs explains that Chamberlin and DiBartolo claimed that he said there was only one meal ticket used, leaving four additional unused tickets. Sachs’ statement is adamant that five tickets were used, and the department had full knowledge due to the five recruit itineraries that were listed.
These two minor violations that are outlined by Sachs led up to what seems to be the final straw for the athletic department, according to his statement.
Per Sachs, the planning for a team camp began last May by the assistant coaches after they had met to discuss future fundraising tactics. Sachs’ statement said that each assistant was responsible for getting teams to attend and other logistics, while Sachs’ only involvement was ordering chairs for the camp and securing officials.
According to the statement, come Sept. 23, teams had come and paid $275 each to partake in the camp that Sachs explains was run by his players, included trainers and officials and was all-around “a good time.” Payment was made either by cash or checks made payable directly to Sachs.
Per the statement, the following day, Sachs received a phone call from DiBartolo asking about the camp and stating he had no prior knowledge of it and did not approve it. After asking for details and who worked the camp, Sachs admits that he knew he had made a mistake.
According to the statement, with a meeting set up for the next day, Sachs contacted officials at conference services and the NCAA to explain he did not have a limited liability company set up and to ask whether or not there were any violations made.
Per Sachs, he relayed to DiBartolo and Chamberlin that the NCAA official he spoke with did not believe that there were any violations committed.
“They did not like that because they deal with enforcement. I was told I also broke some procedural rules and I needed to send them all the information I had,” the statement read.
In an attempt to remedy the situation, Sachs said that he set up an LLC in order to pay his assistant coaches.
But during their meeting on Sept. 25, the statement explains that Sachs was asked to sign a statement acknowledging he lied about the meal tickets, as well as agreeing that one more violation would serve as his third strike and he would be fired. Sachs refused to sign it.
“They already knew I had the team camp on [Sept. 23], procedural mistakes were made, so they were well aware that ‘Strike 3’ had already occurred,” the statement said. “In the letter there was no mention of the team camp. This is obvious entrapment.”
While Sachs continuing to contest the meal ticket violation, he admits in the statement that mistakes were made with the camp. In this agreement, though, he would not admit to lying about the meals and also not knowingly get himself fired when all three strikes had already been added up.
On Sept. 26, one day after his meeting with DiBartolo and Chamberlin, Sachs stated that he left on a recruiting trip. By the time he returned on Oct. 1, he was called into human resources and presented with the option of resigning and receiving a three-month payout including benefits or being fired.
“There is no doubt I made a few mistakes with the camp, but I was completely surprised by the severity of the consequences. An interim coach was named the next day with a press conference the day following that,” the statement said.
Sachs explained through the statement that after weeks of contemplating his next step, due to his status as an at-will employee with SU, there was not much ground to fight the decision in front of him. He would sign the resignation while stipulating that a public statement must be mutually agreed upon.
The statement previously cited, made by SU Athletics on Oct. 25, was not mutually agreed upon, according to Sachs’ statement.
“Much to my surprise, a statement was released without my consent 15 minutes after taking the signed document to HR,” the statement said.
The press release surprised more than Sachs, as many of his former players still on the team took to social media to voice their displeasure.
Freshman Mike Parker, sophomores Johnny Fierstein and Gary Briddell, junior Lucas Martin and seniors Blair Davis, Chase Kumor and Marquis Roberson all responded to the announcement.
“Apparently, [SU Athletics] does not care about their student athletes at all. I hope this horrendous decision blows up in their face,” Kumor tweeted shortly after the decision came out.
Briddell and Martin both commented on the fact that the press release tweeted out by the athletic department was how players found out Sachs would not be returning. Both players voiced displeasure with it, Martin going as far as saying it is proof that SU does not care much for its student athletes.
Roberson and Davis responded by claiming the statement was all a lie from the school, while freshman Parker explained how it was a culmination of indifference toward student-athletes and their teams as a whole.
Through all the chatter, Fierstein seemed to sum up his team’s thoughts with one simple sentiment, quote tweeting the press release.
“What a joke.”
While the statement provides a large amount of much-needed clarity from Sachs’ point of view of the situation, it also ends leaving another cliffhanger with questions to surely follow.
The involvement of the athletic department has been clear, but further university involvement had been unmentioned.
“We had seven days to rescind the offer and I was hoping during the seven days, [President Wight] would step in and make a decision like he told me, the players and the parents he would do,” Sachs’ statement said.
There had been no details surrounding it, but players and parents did meet with SU President Charles Wight regarding the decision. And according to this claim by Sachs, more than one party thought this decision could be reversed, thus adding more drama to the decision that has captured the attention of SU as the basketball season approaches and making it even more bitter of a pill to swallow.
“With all that is going on in college athletics, they come to this decision which has ripped apart the men’s basketball program and devastated my family who love being and having my players as part of our family,” Sachs said. “Unfortunately it is with a heavy heart that I leave the university, my program and my team.”
After their season-opener on Nov. 10, the Gulls will press forward without Sachs as they try to maintain focus through what has been a tumultuous month.
By NICK LEWIS and CHASE GORSKI
Staff writer and Editor-in-Chief
Featured photo: SU gathers for a timeout during their CAC First Round game last season. (Emma Reider/Hannah Wichrowski/Megan Findle image).