February 27, 2009

Athletic Director Dan Coonan writes open letter to Santa Clara community

Feb. 27, 2009

An open letter to the Santa Clara community:

As most of you know by now, our men's basketball team put up a very hard fight against the 17th ranked team in the country last night in front of a capacity crowd that included 1,100 students on ESPN2. Unfortunately, the behavior of a few of the students in throwing objects onto the floor not only marred the game but contributed to the outcome and embarrassed the University.

Rest assured that we are taking this incident very seriously. We have learned a great deal from many eye witnesses and video footage, and the University will be subjecting the responsible parties to discipline through the Office of Student Life. If the individuals are Ruff Riders, they will be expelled from that organization. In either case we will ban them from all future Santa Clara sporting events.

I personally apologized to Gonzaga Head Coach Mark Few and Athletic Director Mike Roth. Santa Clara President Fr. Engh also telephoned Gonzaga President Fr. Robert Spitzer today to do the same.

We have gone to great lengths to enhance what we call "game day atmosphere". We knew that doing so meant that we'd need to pay more attention to crowd control. We posted seven security officials along the side of the court in front of the student section (including three campus safety officers). Additionally that section is frequently monitored by our event staff, our marketing director who works directly with our spirit groups, and by the Ruff Rider leadership themselves. We have signage outlining our expectations relating to fan behavior as well as PA announcements.

Prior to last night, our crowd behavior this year had been very good. Last week I wrote a letter to the campus paper commending the students for their showing at the Saint Mary's game, in which I reminded them to keep it classy, creative and positive. I do not believe the actions of the two students last night are representative of the Ruff Rider group as a whole.

Our renewed focus on game day atmosphere, coupled with the tremendous competitive promise shown on the court by this team, has fueled the energy in the Leavey Center for games like the one last night. I would hate to see incidents like the one last night jeopardize this. The Athletic Department will continue to work with both Campus Safety staff and the Ruff Rider organization to ensure that incidents like the one last night are never repeated.

The tremendous respect I have for the students of this great University is not diminished by the events of last night. I continue to be inspired every day by all that is positive about Santa Clara students. I am confident that we will all use this as a learning moment and then put it behind us. Our vision is to have a loud and energetic but positive and classy student section at every home game.

Go Broncos!

Dan Coonan

Director of Athletics and Recreation