NORTHRIDGE — Cal State Northridge's internal investigation into the arrest of women's basketball coach Michael Abraham should conclude today and decisions on the fate of athletic department officials will soon follow, President Blenda J. Wilson said Monday.
"This is not a long-term inquiry," Wilson said. "Under the circumstances, the way the university has been negatively portrayed by this makes it incumbent upon me to act decisively and quickly."
Abraham, 39, was charged Wednesday with possession with intent to distribute at least 50 grams of crack cocaine. He faces 10 years to life in prison if convicted.
Although Abraham has met with several players since being released on bail Wednesday night, Wilson said he refused to speak to Northridge administrator Mary Ann Cummins-Prager, who is heading the investigation.
"We had a public safety officer hand-deliver a request for him to meet with us," Wilson said. "We received a phone call from his attorney indicating he would not do so."
Wilson will meet with all Northridge head coaches this morning and with the university's advisory board on athletics tonight.
Cummins-Prager's investigation, which began Thursday and includes interviews with numerous students and coaches, focuses on the events of February 1997, when several women's basketball players expressed their suspicions to Athletic Director Paul Bubb that Abraham was using drugs.
Bubb questioned Abraham and conducted his own inquiry, but did not inform Wilson of the players' allegations.
"[The players] couldn't give me specific information," Bubb said. "Had I found anything that could have been substantiated, I would have taken it to the next level."
Bubb's decision to share the information only with Associate Athletic Director Judy Brame concerns Wilson. So is the fact that Bubb subsequently gave Abraham a two-year contract that extends through next spring.
"I certainly share the view on the importance of making sure the young people in [our coaches'] charge are in contact with positive role models," Wilson said. "This is of profound concern to the entire university. There is a sense of violation of our values and principles."
Many outside Northridge are alarmed as well. As often happens with volatile information, much of it becomes erroneous as it is relayed, making everyone associated with Northridge vulnerable.
Jerry Green, men's basketball coach at Tennessee, called Bobby Braswell, his counterpart at Northridge, with a pointed question.
"Is what I hear true, that one of your assistant coaches was caught selling drugs?" Green said.
Northridge is scheduled to play at Tennessee on Nov. 17, a game arranged because Braswell was an assistant under Green from 1992-96 at Oregon and the two remain friends.
Braswell assured Green that no one associated with the Matador men's program sold drugs. But the episode serves as an example of how no one at Northridge can escape the scandal.
"This is a blotch on our entire athletic program," Braswell said.
Also taking note are recruits and their parents. Rumors abound, facts are twisted, and no one is immune.
Several coaches privately complained about Bubb's leadership after four men's sports were cut in June 1997, only to be reinstated two months later because of public outcry.
Now, in the wake of Abraham's arrest, even the most loyal and successful coaches are growing frustrated. Their recruiting efforts are hampered and their credibility is damaged through no fault of their own.
"We have to have some leadership, some stability," Braswell said. "[Other schools] will use this against us. It hurts the entire university."
Five top high school baseball players made unofficial recruiting visits to Northridge last weekend. But instead of extolling the virtues of a program that won 26 games in a row last season, Coach Mike Batesole answered question after question about Abraham's arrest.
"Every kid asked about that situation, and so did their parents," Batesole said. "They are really concerned about the integrity of our program.
"After the sports were cut in '97, [recruits] wondered if they could trust us. Now the concerns are there again. It is getting old."
Wilson is working quickly to contain the damage. She ordered counseling for the women's basketball players and sent letters to the parents of every Northridge athlete.
And she will be in the stands when the women's basketball team opens its season Sunday with an exhibition game at Northridge.
"My own sense is that we are moving on," Wilson said. "I don't hold the view that the athletic department is not able to function at the moment.
"I believe the coaches are pulling together and the student-athletes will have an opportunity to fulfill the opportunities we promised them."