Players allege Ambrose violates NCAA policy
Current and former Towson football players are alleging that Head Coach Rob Ambrose violated NCAA standards by inaccurately reporting team practice times and verbally and physically mistreating players.
Trevor Walker, an inactive linebacker, and another former player who spoke under the condition of anonymity, both accused Ambrose of submitting the incorrect practice logs in a letter to the editor also signed by 25 other current and former players who wished to remain anonymous.
Ambrose Oct. 23 said “of course” all of the records he submitted were factual, but admitted Oct. 24 that 6 a.m. punishment conditionings were not always recorded. Punishment conditions are the consequence for a player missing a class, missing a scheduled workout or some other transgression.
NCAA bylaw 220.127.116.11.4 states that no matter what activity, all countable hours must be recorded on a daily basis for each student-athlete, regardless of whether the activity is an individual or team activity. Any group or individual activity must be included in the recorded time limitations.
To comply with NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168.4, players who participated in 6 a.m. punishment conditioning would have to report those hours on their Countable Athletically Related Activities (CARA) logs. Former cornerback Justin Harris said that other practices also went beyond their allotted times.
“Of course they said that we never went over, but I felt that was not always the case,” Harris said. “They would try to say our practice was at a particular time but we would have pre-practice and pre-pre-practice and post-practice that will just be adding another hour or hour-and-a-half to the actual practice. A scheduled practice would be like two hours, but really practice would be like three-and-a-half or four hours.”
Ambrose submitted CARA logs to the Office of Compliance over the summer that show discrepancies between the schedules distributed to the players and the total amount of time on the logs.
On Sunday, Aug. 12, an individual player’s schedule dated Aug. 1 states that the defensive line lifted weights while offensive line performed a “walk through,” or assignment review, from 10:30 – 11:20 a.m. Then from 11:30 a.m. – 12:20 p.m., the lines switched activities.
Later, from 2-2:30 p.m, special teams met and from 2:40 p.m. – 4 p.m. and 7:15 – 8:45 p.m., position meetings occurred.
This totals more than five hours, but on the log, Ambrose reported only three and a half hours of daily activity.
On Tuesday, Aug. 28, Ambrose recorded four hours of daily activity. The schedule, however, states that from 8:30 – 8:50 a.m. special teams met, 9 – 9:50 a.m. the offensive lines met and the defensive line performed a “walk through.” From 10 – 10:50 a.m., the two lines switched activities.
From 2 – 2:30 p.m. special teams met again, and from 2:40 – 3:20 p.m. and 8:45 – 9:45 p.m. position meetings occurred. A taping also occurred at 1:15 p.m and a team meeting occurred at 8:15 p.m.
“No one would ever say anything because he’ll find out,” a current player who spoke on the condition of anonymity citing his status as a current player said. “If it’s reported that he’s going over, all he’ll do is stuff practice. He’ll take the little bit of time that he has and make it worse for us. That’s why people don’t even say anything. It’s going to affect us regardless. It’s not going to help us.”
Current linebacker Brian Boateng said Ambrose offered him a scholarship for his last semester at Towson under the condition that Boateng would start until the end of the spring practices.
Walker said that Boateng started the entire spring except for the last two practices leading up to the spring game, but Boateng’s scholarship was not renewed.
“He was like ‘I don’t pay for seniors, but I’ll make a deal with you,’” Boateng said. “’If after spring, you become the starter, then [you’ll] get some scholarship.’”
Walker, who was recovering from a severe injury said he did not participate in practice until the last week of the spring, but was suddenly named the starter in place of Boateng.
“I didn’t practice all spring,” Walker said. “I didn’t play until that last week of practice and the day before the spring game, they throw me in there as a starter. They said that because Boateng didn’t make it through the spring, then he wasn’t eligible for a scholarship.”
Ambrose denied that he told any player he’s going to get a scholarship and then did not honor that request.
“The descriptor of kids that are not on scholarship and how they have to get on scholarship, what they have to do to get on scholarship may be considered a deal,” Ambrose said. “There are certain things — they have to play, get into the lineup and not because somebody fell down and got hurt. They have to earn their way into the lineup.”
Director of Athletics Mike Waddell said that the Office of Compliance conducted a full investigation into the allegations.
Waddell did not provide details of the investigation in his email.
“No improprieties regarding practice times were found and no findings indicated that the physical well-being of football student-athletes was placed in jeopardy,” Waddell said in an email.
It is a standard practice for the Office of Compliance to send a representative to explain the importance of tracking.
Another former player identified Lindsey McDonnell, Assistant Director for Compliance Services, as the person who came in to speak to players about the tracking of hours of athletically related activities last season.
“They had this lady come and speak to us before the season started and she basically tried to tell us about it,” former player No. 2 said. “Even though she said we could come to her, kids are scared to come to her. She’ll say that and then leave the room and Ambrose would look at us, give us a certain look.”
The Office of the President also released a statement saying that Faculty Athletics Representative, who is listed on the University website as Gail Gasparic, but is unconfirmed at this time, and the Deputy Director of Athletics Devin Crosby conducted a separate investigation into the allegations.
“The investigation included but was not limited to: unplanned practice observations, review of football student-athlete exit-interviews, and sports medicine reports,” the statement reads. “No findings suggested that the well-being and welfare of our student-athletes were placed in jeopardy. We will continue to uphold the values of the institution and appreciate the department of Athletics swift action to address this student-athlete’s concern.”
A representative from the NCAA could not be reached for comment to confirm whether they were conducting an investigation.
In Ambrose’s first season as head coach following the Villanova game in 2009, many players recalled a practice known as “Villanova Sunday.”
Current player No. 2 said that on that particular Sunday, players conditioned for over two hours straight with no breaks. They were placed in groups based on their position and went through hours of rotations that consisted of up-downs, stadium runs, sprints, push-ups.
Former head coach Gordy Combs had recruited almost all of the players on the roster ahead of “Villanova Sunday.” Combs led the team to a 3-10 record during his final season in 2008-09.
Ambrose’s attitude toward the team was harsh since his appointment, current player No. 2 said.
“[Ambrose] wanted people to quit,” he said. “He wanted to see if you loved the game enough to do anything.”
Walker said what prompted him to to draft the letter to the editor was a meeting between him and Defensive Coordinator Matt Hachmann that occurred around Oct. 14. Walker said he approached Hachmann about receiving more playing time, but that the defensive coordinator reacted harshly, cursing and ordering him to leave his office. Ambrose refused to comment, referring all inquires about the incident to the President’s office.
Walker in his letter also accused Ambrose of offending players.
Walker said Ambrose stated prior to this season’s game at St. Francis “I do not care what your religion is. I do not care if I offend anyone. But even if Jesus and his disciples come in here on Saturday, we are going to [expletive] them up and get them the [expletive] out of here.”
Ambrose has since issued a statement of apology for the St. Francis comment.
“I hold deep respect for the rights and beliefs of every individual, and would never intentionally disparage these beliefs,” the statement reads. “I apologize profusely to the Towson University community and anyone who was offended by my pregame speech to the football team. The hyperbole was intended only to motivate and to evoke the sense that together, as a team, we could not be beaten. I take from this a valuable lesson, and know that our season is very much alive with another National Championship caliber team.”
Waddell also said that the language used between coaches and players was not in line with the core values of the University.
“This is being addressed with all parties involved, coaches, staff and student-athletes,” Waddell said in an email.
No details have emerged about how these issues will be addressed.The Tigers are still contenders in this year’s playoff hunt.