Eustachy to be fired?
By TOM WITOSKY
Register Staff Writer
Ames, Ia. - Iowa State University officials, seeking to short-circuit brutal national publicity, moved Wednesday to dismiss men's basketball coach Larry Eustachy in the wake of reports that he drank and partied with students after games at the University of Missouri and Kansas State University.
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Athletic director Bruce Van De Velde said he had recommended to school officials that Eustachy, 47, the state's highest-paid employee at $1.1 million a year, be terminated for "just cause" - failing to represent the school and its athletic programs in a positive manner.
Eustachy has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of termination proceedings.
"I cannot, and I do not, condone coach Eustachy's behavior," Van De Velde said, reading from a statement at a news conference. "Regardless of the reason, we have a right to expect better from such a prominent member of the Iowa State community."
Eustachy's attorney, Jerry Crawford, was informed of the recommendation at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Van De Velde said. In response to the school's action, Crawford said he and Doug Gross, another Des Moines lawyer, would be evaluating "all of the options available to coach Eustachy."
Crawford and Gross, a former Republican Party candidate for governor, have five days to request an appeal for Eustachy. Such a hearing would be held by Tahira K. Hira, Iowa State's assistant to the president for external affairs.
Eustachy's contract requires a hearing within 20 days of filing an appeal.
If Eustachy doesn't file the appeal, then Van De Velde's recommendation would be forwarded to university President Gregory Geoffroy for final action.
If school officials successfully terminate Eustachy for "just cause," the school would not be obligated to provide him with any severance or other pay - a move that could save the athletic department as much as $2.5 million.
Eustachy's contract defines grounds for a just-cause termination. Those grounds include "any conduct in violation of any criminal statute other than a simple misdemeanor or any gross misconduct which is substantially likely to have a materially adverse impact on the university or its athletic program."
Van De Velde announced his decision to seek Eustachy's dismissal hours after the coach acknowledged that he is an alcoholic, apologizing for his behavior at two after-hours parties following Big 12 Conference road games. Eustachy asked for a second chance.
"I won't resign," Eustachy said. "I think that a non-sober Larry had the ability to win two championships, and I am looking forward to the future."
Eustachy said he informed school officials for the first time of his alcoholism in a meeting on Monday, the day The Des Moines Register published photographs and accounts of the coach's actions at parties in Columbia, Mo., and Manhattan, Kan.
Eustachy had met with Geoffroy and Van De Velde about 10 days earlier and acknowledged making poor decisions and using bad judgment on road trips. Eustachy said that he didn't disclose his alcoholism at that time.
Questions about Eustachy's behavior at the party were initially raised in late January when a picture of Eustachy standing next to a group of students was placed on a Missouri fan Web site.
At that time, Van De Velde acknowledged the picture's authenticity but suggested that it showed nothing negative. In addition, he said he understood that Eustachy had posed for the picture while having dinner after the road game.
Later, Van De Velde said the explanation had not been complete because it was based on his speculation and the account provided by Eustachy.
Van De Velde refused to take questions about his recommendation that Eustachy be dismissed. He said he would have no comment until after the matter was closed.
"This evaluation became necessary upon receipt of information that coach Eustachy had engaged in behavior that is inconsistent with his responsibility to conduct himself in a manner that reflects positively on Iowa State University and the university's athletic program," he said.
Van De Velde also said that he had received additional reports regarding Eustachy's conduct.
"My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by this situation," Van De Velde said. "I am taking this action in the best interests of Iowa State University and its student-athletes."
Iowa State's move capped a tumultuous three days for Eustachy, the school and its fans as they tried to cope with disclosures of Eustachy's behavior and surrounding national attention.
Geoffroy, in his first public comments, on Tuesday called the episode "embarrassing."
The Register disclosed Monday that Eustachy had attended parties on both campuses where he drank beer, got into arguments with men attending the parties and posed for pictures either embracing or kissing college-age women.
The disclosures set off a storm of controversy. Meanwhile, university officials remained silent about how they would deal with Eustachy, the first ISU men's basketball coach to lead a team to back-to-back conference titles.
Eustachy also led Iowa State to the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament in 2000, when he was named national coach of the year.
He has been a head coach for 13 years, and his teams have compiled an overall 260-145 record. At Iowa State, Eustachy's record is 101-59.