One week ago, anticipation was building around the St. Louis University basketball program with the start of practice looming, a big-time recruit on campus and a possible turnaround for the team on the horizon.
The Billikens will open practice Saturday morning amid a different atmosphere.
Coach Travis Ford will put his players through a workout as the university and St. Louis police continue investigations into allegations of sexual assault made against four players. The school has said that practices will be closed to the media and that players and coaches will not be available for interviews until further notice.
University officials have not given any indication whether the unnamed players will be allowed to practice as the process unfolds.
That will not be observable with the first workout being closed. Practices never were closed to the media last season, Ford’s first at the school. Coach Jim Crews also always held open practices.
The university released a statement late Friday in response to requests for information on the players’ status.
“College and universities are prohibited by the federal student privacy law from releasing student conduct information without a student’s consent, except in very limited circumstances,” the statement said. “Saint Louis University follows a thorough process for Title IX investigations applicable to every member of the SLU community. The University is committed to ensuring that investigations and all student conduct proceedings are fair and impartial. In this case, the University’s Title IX investigation is ongoing. Consistent with this statement, the University will not make any further comment.”
Three women reported the assaults early Sunday morning and went to a hospital around 2:30 a.m., which was reportedly less than two hours after the alleged assaults. Two local attorneys have acknowedged that they are representing the players.
The athletic department has remained silent as have other university administrators since president Fred Pestello released a statement on the matter on Tuesday. Ford and athletics director Chris May did not respond when asked via text message and through a department official if the players would be participating in practice.
Athletes, coaches and administrators from the school were at Busch Stadium on Thursday for Billikens Night. A photo was posted on Twitter of May, Ford, women’s basketball coach Lisa Stone and senior guard Davell Roby.
There has been increased anticipation of the upcoming season with the arrival of numerous transfers and well-regarded recruits.
After three dismal seasons, SLU is expected to have the services of five transfers and two freshmen, who would account for a significant turnover in talent. The Billikens have only five players from last year’s team, which finished 12-21 and 6-12 in the Atlantic 10.
The makeup of the team could now be in question, depending on the outcome of the investigations. SLU plays its season opener Nov. 10 at Chaifetz Arena against Seattle.