University: Program won't be sacked

NEW YORK -- St. John's University on Thursday denied a
report that its president might recommend suspending the school's
basketball program if it can't remain scandal-free.

"In no way shape or form are we thinking of disbanding the
program," declared Jody Fisher, the school's chief spokesman.

The New York Daily News reported the scenario Thursday, quoting the
school's president, the Rev. Donald Harrington.

"I would go to the board [of trustees] and say, 'It's now my
conviction we can't do it,' " if the program's troubles persist,
Harrington said, according to the Daily News.

"The university's values and mission are too important,"
Harrington said. "If the question is, 'Would you sacrifice your
principles rather than face fact?' The answer is no. We will not
sacrifice our principles or our mission. Ultimately, that would be
the decision of our trustees, but that would be my

On Wednesday, guard Elijah Ingram withdrew from the university,
one week after he and five teammates broke curfew to go to a strip

Ingram, a sophomore who led the team in scoring, left on the
same day the St. John's judicial board suspended teammate Abe Keita
from school for one year, the university announced.

Both Ingram and Keita already were permanently suspended from
the basketball team. Ingram's decision spared him from appearing
before the judicial board.

A third teammate, Grady Reynolds, was expelled from St. John's
last week. Two other players were suspended from the basketball
team but remained in school, while another player still faced
unspecified lesser discipline.

The players got in trouble following a 71-51 loss to Pittsburgh on Feb. 4. A 38-year-old woman told police she was gang
raped by St. John's players she met at a strip club outside the city.

No criminal charges were filed against the players, and the
woman -- Sherri Ann Urbanek-Bach -- said she made up the story after
the players refused to pay her $1,000 for sex, according to court
documents. She was charged with prostitution, attempted extortion
and filing fictitious reports.

Last weekend, Harrington was criticized for making incentive
remarks by blaming the program's culture for its woes. He since has
apologized for those remarks.

"I regret that my own statements had even increased the pain of
some of our students," Harrington said. "I was very careful to
say that while I wish I could find a better word -- the word I used
was culture -- I did not mean it in terms of ethnicity or religion,
but rather the environment, the context, the expectations one of

The Red Storm have dealt with their share of troubles this
season. In early December, senior guard Willie Shaw, suspended
after being arrested for possession of marijuana, was dismissed
from the team.

On Dec. 19, Mike Jarvis became the first Big East coach to be
fired during a season.