VILLANOVA, Pa., March 8 (UPI) -- Villanova University announced Saturday that 12 members of the men's basketball team had been suspended after an internal inquiry into telephone access code violations.
According to NCAA guidelines, the penalties will range from three to eight games depending on the dollar value of the benefit. The suspensions will also be staggered over a series of games so that the school may field a team for its upcoming games.
Among those serving suspensions include senior starters Gary Buchanan and Ricky Wright along with senior forward Andrew Sullivan, senior guard Lou Ruskey, junior forward Andreas Bloch, sophomore center Chris Charles and injured freshman center Jason Fraser.
"This is a sitiation of some good, young men making poor decisions and probably at the time, not understanding the consequences of the decision," said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. "Obviously this is a very sad day for our basketball program and our University. As head of the basketball program, our players and coaches understand that we represent the University, the students, and our alumni and fans. That's what makes this such a sad day."
The available players for Sunday's regular season finale against seventh-ranked Pittsburgh include freshmen guards Randy Foye and Allan Ray, who each average 10 points per game, sophomore guard Derrick Snowden and freshman forward Curtis Sumpter. But those players will eventually serve suspensions.
Villanova (15-13, 8-7 Big East) will participate in the Big East tournament next week, but likely ruined any chance it had of winning the tournament and earning an NCAA bid.
"This is a disappointing moment for all of us at Villanova," Athletic Director Vince Nicastro said. "We understand that errors in judgement may ultimately result in the premature end to some of our student-athletes' careers. However, the NCAA has clear guidelines for withholding athletes based on dollar values of the extra benefits."
An internal university audit of telephone records detected irregularities in the use of a university access code on March 4. The code was used to to make unauthorized telephone calls from various campus locations over a period of months by Villanova students, including members of the basketball team.
After consultation with the NCAA, it was determined that suspensions were warranted in these cases.
"The misuse of a university access code is a serious matter," Nicastro said. "We learned of this breach on Tuesday and have moved quickly to analyze the records. This is a complicated process because the breach involves members of the general student population as well as student-athletes.
"We are working diligently to get to the bottom of this. We have established that no member of the coaching staff supplied this information to the athletes and that the individual whose code was abused had no knowledge of the abuse."
Only three players on Villanova's roster -- junior guard Tom Grace and freshmen guards Mike Claxton and Baker Dunleavy -- were not suspended.
"As the coach, it's like anyone who has children would probably understand," Wright said. "Like a parent, you are disappointed in them and disappointed for them, but you still love them and they're still your guys. That's the way I am looking at this right now."
"We are going to play these remaining games with the seven guys that the NCAA allows us to use," Wright added. "And we are going to proceed and try to grow and I promise we'll we stronger for this."
The Wildcats host seventh-ranked Pittsburgh on Sunday in their regular-season finale. They will play West Virginia in the first round of the Big East Tournament on Wednesday.