Following vigorous outcry from current and former members of Delta Tau, several top University officials have addressed complaints that Dave Amato, head coach of Brown’s wrestling team, dissuaded first-year wrestlers from joining Delta Tau and other fraternities. But DTau President Chris DeCarolis ’06 said the University has not gone far enough and wants a public apology and an admission of wrongdoing from Amato.
“I think (Amato) recognizes he went too far in this case, and I would say the same thing,” said Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services David Greene, who said he and Joan Taylor, the interim athletic director, had both spoken to Amato about the situation.
“It’s absolutely appropriate to be able to talk to members of the team about choices they’re making and to counsel them about that, to talk about the experiences other players have had when they’ve made those choices,” Greene said. “Those things all seem to be just right, and (Amato) did those things. I think what’s not appropriate is setting an ultimatum for members of the team … and we’re all on the same page that that’s not the way that the coach would relate to players in the future.”
Greene, who said that the matter is resolved from the University’s point of view, would not say whether Amato had been officially reprimanded, saying that “any sort of personnel action or anything that would happen” is private.
DeCarolis told The Herald Thursday that the University’s response fell short of his expectations. “For David Greene and the athletic director to say (Amato) knows he was wrong isn’t enough,” DeCarolis said. “Until I hear from him, I’m not satisfied. … Until he can acknowledge publicly that what he did was wrong, I cannot trust that he won’t do it again,” he added.
“If Coach Amato had stopped a (wrestler) from joining the (Queer Alliance), immediately he would have been reprimanded if not fired,” he said.
Amato said Thursday he had no comment about the situation. Asked if he would be willing to make a public apology, Amato said he had not spoken with any members of DTau, including DeCarolis, “so I really don’t have a comment on what he’s saying.”
Amato has acknowledged that he dissuaded several first-year wrestlers from joining DTau, but said that he had the best interest of the students in mind. One first-year wrestler, Ben Cannon ’08, turned in his bid for Sigma Chi, but subsequently de-pledged after Amato told him he had to choose between joining a fraternity and being on the wrestling team. Another first-year wrestler, who had handed in his bid to Dtau, decided not to pledge after discussions with Amato.
After that first-year dropped out, DTau fell one short of the eight pledges it needed to retain on-campus housing status. However, the Office of Residential Life is allowing DTau to stay on campus next year and the fraternity has postponed its pledge process until the fall, according to DeCarolis.
Amato has said that in recent years the wrestling team had gotten “lumped together” with DTau and its disciplinary problems. He said that in March 2004 he had to give under-oath testimony to the police about an assault that occurred after a party thrown by ex-wrestlers and ex-Delts. Amato said he had to assure police that no wrestlers knew the identity of the assailant.
Current and former members of DTau, traditionally a wrestling fraternity, have said that Amato has seriously hurt recruiting efforts over the past three years. In 2003, Amato set an ultimatum for wrestlers, telling them they had to choose between pledging a fraternity and staying on the team. DTau alums, including Providence attorney Al Romano ’73, intervened in 2003, and after a correspondence with Amato they thought the situation was resolved, Romano said.
As director of the Delt Foundation, a 200-member alumni support group for DTau, Romano has voiced his anger and concerns to the University about the current situation, and he has threatened legal action. He told The Herald Wednesday that he was withholding his position until he spoke with Greene personally. Romano also said the University’s response to the situation would be “a heated topic of our discussions” at a Delt Foundation meeting scheduled for Saturday night.
“I want to see if the University is going to do something to compensate” for DTau’s serious loss of recruits, Romano said. “I think the University owes these people an opportunity to bring more pledges into their organization.”
Romano also expressed doubts that Amato would truly change in the future. “I don’t think Dave Amato can be trusted – he’s gonna find another way to do the same thing,” Romano said. Of Amato’s statements that the wrestling team had been lumped with DTau-related disciplinary problems, Romano said, “We haven’t had a wrestler in the house in three years, so it would appear that all of this stuff is of Amato’s own making.”
“(Amato’s) program hasn’t done that well,” Romano added. “I just don’t think it’s fair to blame his poor performance on a group of guys that hasn’t had any impact on that performance except a positive one.”
But others, including Greek Council Chair Chris Guhin ’05, saw the University’s response as an acceptable resolution to the situation. Guhin, who met with several administrators Wednesday, including Greene and Interim Dean for Campus Life Margaret Klawunn, pointed to the significance of “the fact that David Greene was willing to say on the record that ultimatums aren’t OK.”
“It became less about the individual case, more about setting a rule, setting a precedent, making sure things like this don’t happen, making sure that all students have the freedom to join whatever organization they want to join,” Guhin said.
Guhin said he appreciated the University’s level of attention to the issue and “right now we feel confident that there’s a lot more support in place to make sure something like this won’t happen again.”
“That the University handled this at the highest levels … shows how seriously they took this issue,” said John Land ’79, alumni president of Delta Phi and an alumni advisor to the Greek system. Land called it “huge” that “a clear precedent has been set … (that) no one involved in a supervisory position of undergraduates can dictate housing policy to them.” Land, who said he was “totally satisfied” with the University’s response, called freedom of residential choice a “crucial issue.”
That Amato dissuaded wrestlers from joining fraternities does not appear to violate any NCAA rules. However, Amato has also acknowledged that he told the first-year wrestlers who were considering joining a fraternity that he would help them with housing if he could, including writing letters to Residential Life. If Amato had fulfilled that promise and it resulted in better housing, it would apparently constitute a violation of NCAA bylaws prohibiting “any extra benefit” for student-athletes.
“Once someone becomes a student-athlete, they can receive assistance with arranging housing, provided the student-athlete is not receiving some benefit that isn’t available to other students in general,” NCAA Associate Director for Public Relations Gail Dent wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. “If other students have to go through the lottery, then the student-athletes would have to do the same according to the institution’s policies.”
Greene said he had not discussed NCAA rules with Taylor. Taylor did not return several calls and e-mails seeking comment.