The College of Staten Island’s athletic department was placed on four years probation after college sports’ governing body said it lacked institutional control over its men’s swimming program.
The swim team also received a two-year postseason ban, the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division III Committee on Infractions said in an e-mailed release. Former swimming coach Oleg Soloviev broke the NCAA’s ethical conduct rules and provided impermissible benefits to players, according to the release.
CSI Interim President William J. Fritz said in a statement that the school itself found and reported many of the violations. He said there never was any allegation that the academic integrity of the college was compromised.
“I am extremely proud of our student athletes, who continually display excellence on the field and in the classroom,” Fritz said. “I am committed to having an athletics program of which our students, faculty, staff and Staten Island community can be equally proud.”
CSI has 13,300 undergraduates and is part of the City University of New York system.
Soloviev arranged reduced-cost lifeguard certification courses, signed leases and provided cost-free housing for athletes, according to the release. He also helped five international prospects in the visa process, and provided false information regarding his actions to the school and NCAA, the committee said.
Robert Prignoli, a Staten Island-based lawyer who represents Soloviev, said in a telephone interview that his client believes the decision is “unjust” and intends to appeal.
“We believe the investigation was corrupted because the NCAA let the college investigate itself and would not let us interview witnesses even though the college, which was also charged and found guilty of violations, was allowed to interview witnesses,” Prignoli said. “We believe that we did not have a proper and fair defense.”
The infractions committee said Staten Island failed to oversee recruiting practices, monitor athlete housing arrangements and provide adequate NCAA rules education. Its athletic department will be on probation until Nov. 20, 2017.
Soloviev, who was born in Russia, was fired in 2011 after 15 years as the Dolphins swimming coach, according to the Staten Island Advance. He recruited heavily from overseas and in 2008 coached Russian Pavel Buyanov to an NCAA title in the 100-yard breaststroke, the school’s first Division III national champion in any sport. Under Soloviev, the Dolphins won seven CUNY Athletic Conference titles, the newspaper said.
If Soloviev seeks an athletics-related position at an NCAA member school in the next four years, he and the school must appear before the Committee on Infractions to determine whether his sports-related duties should be limited. His conference Coach of the Year awards from 2007 to 2011 were also vacated by the school.
-- Editors: Larry Siddons, Jay Beberman