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NYU golf coach forced to resign

WWW- NYU Golf Head Coach Jay Donovan was recently forced to resign after the athletics department learned he took the team to a strip club while in Florida last March for a tournament, according to Donovan. The resignation comes in the midst of controversy between Donovan and several of the team’s players.

Both the athletic department and the players who were on last year’s team repeatedly refused to comment for this article.

The incident occurred during the week of March 15, when the golf team participated in the Johnson & Wales University CAT Classic in Weston, Fla. One night, the team got lost driving in the Ft. Lauderdale area, Donovan said. The team came across a strip club and one player jokingly suggested they go in. Donovan laughed off the proposal and continued to drive.

Still lost, the team came across the same strip club and, again, members of the team asked to go in.

Donovan agreed in an effort to appease a team with which he had tension since he became coach last fall. Six of the eight players on the team accompanied Donovan into the club. Team Captain John “Pepper” Pharr, a senior, and junior Andrew Gihm did not go in.

Donovan, who doesn’t drink, said he had a cigar at the club. Members of the team drank alcoholic beverages, including junior Adam Krainson, who was 20 at the time, Donovan said.

Donovan maintains, however, that neither he nor the athletic department paid for anything the players purchased while in the club and that they were there for less than an hour.

The decision to go into the club was regrettable, Donovan said.

“I made a very spontaneous decision that night,” he said. “I didn’t suggest we go, but I was responsible for my actions and I have no problem being held accountable. I did pull the van into the parking lot of that club and never should have.”

The events leading to Donovan’s resignation began about two weeks ago.

On Oct. 10, Pharr informed Donovan he would be missing practice that day to play golf with friends and family at Bethpage Black, a Long Island golf course regarded as one of the best in the country. Teammate Matthew Frame, a senior, also missed practice to play with Pharr.

“I tried to appeal to Pepper’s reasonable side,” Donovan told WSN. “It’s important that he practice at the course we’re playing the tournament on. I also made it very clear that this was not a good example to set as captain. He still insisted on going and basically told me that my opinion does not matter.” The team was scheduled to practice that day at Hampshire Country Club in Larchmont, N.Y.

Donovan, Pharr, Athletic Director Chris Bledsoe and Associate Athletic Director Janice Quinn held a meeting on Oct. 12 to discuss the implications of skipping the practice. Bledsoe criticized Pharr for setting a bad example for the rest of the team as the captain and insinuated that he may have his position revoked, Donovan said.

Michael Leibfried, the lone freshman on the team, said it was not a problem for him that Pharr and Frame missed practice.

“I couldn’t care less as long as they play well, but I can understand the coach’s anger,” Leibfried said.

Following the meeting, the golf team was set to leave Coles Sports Center for practice, but Pharr was busy rehashing what happened in the meeting to his teammates.

After several unsuccessful requests for the players to get in the team van, Donovan decided they did not want to play that day and canceled practice.

Several of the players responded at that moment by quitting the team, citing their fear that Pharr would be cut.

But then, after hearing that news, players’ parents called the athletic department. In those calls, parents told Bledsoe that Donovan took players to a strip club – a clear violation of NCAA rules – while they were in Florida.

The athletics department then told the coach he had to resign, and he did later that day.

Jeff Bernstein, the athletic department’s sports information director, refused to confirm or deny that Donovan was forced to resign.

The players who went on the trip to Florida last spring also would not confirm or deny what happened.

Though Donovan is not upset with the athletic department, he was very critical of the way the team dealt with him and their problems over the past year, saying the players treat the golf team as a club sport and have tried to dictate policy since he became coach. On numerous occasions, players have skipped practice for reasons no better than wanting to watch the Big East basketball tournament, Donovan said.

Donovan said he also turned his head when players violated the drinking policy.

“I looked the other way with regards to the drinking on that trip,” he said of the time they were in Florida. “This is the reward I get. [The players] pulled their trump card.”

Leibfried was one of three current players who was not on the team in the spring. He did not quit the team after Pharr’s meeting with Bledsoe and Quinn.

He said he was neutral about the problems between Donovan and the older players. Though Donovan resigning was unfortunate, he said, he was simply happy the team remained intact.

“The way I go is that I’m friends with the guys on the team, but indifferent as far as coaching styles as long as I get to play golf,” he said. “All other things I try to ignore.”

Donovan, 43, came to NYU last fall in a full-time coaching position after a career playing amateur golf and caddying for over 40 PGA Tour events. He also worked in the corporate golfing industry in sales.

Bernstein served as the team’s coach for the final event of the fall season, in which NYU placed first in the Violet Classic on Oct. 14 and 15. The athletics department has yet to find a replacement, Bernstein said.

The team’s next tournament is the Johnson & Wales University CAT Classic in Weston, Fla. on March 16 – the same trip in which the team visited the strip club last year.

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