(CBS) With his school taking heat with four men’s basketball players having been arrested in the past seven-plus months, including two in the past several weeks, Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman emphasized Thursday that the university takes the allegations seriously and made clear that coach John Groce will be retained.
Even if the allegations of recent arrests prove to be true, Whitman didn’t agree with the notion that should spell the end of Groce’s four-year tenure in Champaign.READ MORE: Long-Stalled Plan To Create Database For CPD Misconduct Files Set For Committee Hearing On Friday
“I continue to believe very strongly in the leadership John is providing,” Whitman said.
Groce flanked Whitman at an afternoon press conference called to address the general concerns but which couldn’t specifically address any of the legal cases.
“I understand others concerns,” Groce said. “I do. I take the seriousness of this, these allegations very seriously.”
Junior guards Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate each were arrested recently for alleged domestic violence incidents. Nunn has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor domestic battery after allegedly striking a woman, who suffered a minor injury, during a dispute that may have been about money, the AP reported. He’s been suspended from the team.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Cooler Than Normal
Tate was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of domestic abuse. He’s also pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer has said that the accuser has recanted her original statement saying Tate hit here. Tate remains indefinitely suspended as the case plays out.
In February, Leron Black was arrested on a charge of felony aggravated assault after he was alleged to have pulled a knife on a bouncer at a club. He too has been suspended with the case still pending.
Last August, Darius Paul was kicked off the team after being arrested on charges of public intoxication and vandalizing in France while the Illini were on an exhibition tour.
Amid all the off-court trouble, Groce said he and his fellow assistants have made it a priority to develop their players as quality young men as well as players. Groce also believed that punishments doled out in the past and currently are adequate.
“There’s a difference between choices and discipline,” Groce said. “In terms of discipline, we’ve shown, as you well know in the past, that there is an accountability piece to this, and we will discipline our players if need be, if substantiated. Obviously, we want to be very firm, yet fair. I understand. I’m the leader of the men’s basketball program.MORE NEWS: Video From Police Shooting That Killed Adam Toledo To Be Released On Thursday, COPA Says
“For us, I say right now, ‘What can we control?’ It’s the environment, the culture, our discipline when it comes to certain behaviors, consequences. At the end of the day, do I think that we can control choices 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, seven days a week? That’s hard. We can educate them, and we committed to doing that. Josh and I are committed to doing that, and we’re going to continue to do that at an even more pronounced level.”