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Seton Hall suspends basketball coach Kevin Willard over NCAA investigation

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 10/29/2019 Jerry Carino, Asbury Park Press
a man in a suit standing in front of a crowd: Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard will sit out two games. © Frank Victores, USA TODAY Sports Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard will sit out two games.

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. - The most anticipated Seton Hall basketball season in decades is tipping off without head coach Kevin Willard.

Willard will serve a two-game, university-implemented suspension -- Tuesday night’s exhibition against Misericordia and next week's opener against Wagner -- in response to an NCAA investigation into allegations of transfer tampering. 

Assistant coach Grant Billmeier will run the team during the two games. Willard will continue to run the 13th-ranked Seton Hall’s practices between the two games.

“Seton Hall University has been working collaboratively with the NCAA enforcement staff to address an infraction within our men’s basketball program," said a statement issued by the athletics department. "Our department has been proactive in our review and has been fully cooperating with the NCAA enforcement staff.

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"As head coach, Coach Willard assumes responsibility for the program, including this underlying violation, and has agreed to sit out the October 29 exhibition contest and the November 5 game. This matter is still in review, and as a result, we will refrain from commenting any further until it is resolved. Seton Hall is and always will be committed to a culture of compliance, and we will continue to work diligently to ensure it.”

A ruling from the NCAA on whether the two games is sufficient is expected in the near future.

The suspension is the first of a Seton Hall coach since the Big East hit Bobby Gonzalez with a one-game ban for lashing out at official Wally Rutecki after a Pirates loss to Rutgers in 2008.

Tampering with transfers is believed to be widespread in college basketball, but penalties seldom are assessed because it’s hard to prove and aggrieved coaches rarely push the issue.

Billmeier is Willard’s longest-serving assistant, having come on board in 2016 after previously spending four seasons as director of basketball operations. He played center for Seton Hall from 2003-07 and specializes in coaching big men.

He has been part of six Seton Hall NCAA tournament teams - two as a player and four in a row as an assistant. That matches P.J. Carlesimo, Tom Sullivan and Bruce Hamburger, who coached together during the golden years of the late 1980s and early 1990s, for the most tournament appearances with the Pirates.

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Seton Hall suspends basketball coach Kevin Willard over NCAA investigation


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