Press No. 3 Sports Story of 2011: Memos, volleyball team play role in McCallum firingOn Dec. 10, 2010, Ryan Platt unexpectedly resigned from his position as Dickinson State’s head volleyball coach. Eight months later, the volleyball program and the manner in which three international student-athletes on the team were being compensated became one of the primary focuses in the dismissal of now former DSU President Dr. Richard McCallum.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Editor’s Note: The Dickinson Press’ Top 10 sports stories of 2011 countdown continues through Dec. 31. Each story in the countdown will be presented as a column with the reporter’s take on why the story was impactful this year.
On Dec. 10, 2010, Ryan Platt unexpectedly resigned from his position as Dickinson State’s head volleyball coach.
Eight months later, the volleyball program and the manner in which three international student-athletes on the team were being compensated became one of the primary focuses in the dismissal of now former DSU President Dr. Richard McCallum.
Exactly one year to the day that a memo was written by a DSU employee indicating the possibility of improper payments being made to student-athletes, McCallum was unanimously fired by the state Board of Higher Education.
The DSU athletic program’s role in McCallum’s firing is The Dickinson Press’ No. 3 Sports Story of 2011.
McCallum was asked to resign by North Dakota University System Chancellor William Goetz on Aug. 4. A week later, Goetz ordered a review of the DSU athletic department.
Shortly thereafter, information arose via university memos — released to the media under open records requests — that pointed to possible illegal payments made by Platt to volleyball players.
A memo, dated Dec. 15, 2010 — exactly one year before McCallum was fired — said an employee in the university’s multicultural affairs office had been approached by at least one student-athlete as to why they were no longer receiving additional cash funds promised to them by Platt to cover housing costs.
Platt had resigned days earlier after the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) placed him and the volleyball team on probation through the 2011-12 school year for violations committed during the 2010 season. The violations involved inappropriate conduct and the use of ineligible players, which DSU athletic director Tim Daniel later testified to the state higher board of education were self-reported infractions.
Daniel testified on Oct. 19 that Platt denied giving unapproved funds to volleyball players when asked about it.
A later memo, dated Jan. 13, specifically noted one student-athlete who was, or had been, a member of the DSU volleyball team was approved by McCallum to receive $4,000 annually in Roughrider scholarship funds — four times the university-set limit of $1,000.
“As the president, he has that discretionary authority to provide, above and beyond, that stated amount,” DSU director of enrollment services Norman Coley said in a Press story on Aug. 16. “I think in that situation, I believe there was some extenuating circumstances that, in his vantage point, he felt should be awarded a higher Roughrider scholarship.”
A memo dated March 23 said McCallum approved additional assistance to another international student-athlete of nearly $5,000 in Roughrider scholarship, global awareness and athletic awards.
In his testimony to the state higher board of education, Daniel said he and others were “concerned about the precedent” being set by giving Roughrider scholarship funds to international students and added he was concerned “that one student had did this and others were following and it would be a copycat situation.”
Despite the scrutiny surrounding DSU’s Roughrider scholarship awards, the stipulations for them remain fuzzy. Some university officials maintain the scholarships were created for North Dakota high school graduates and two-year college transfer students. Others say recent changes to the scholarship terminology say the funds can be awarded to almost any deserving student.
While it is not known how much McCallum’s involvement in the compensation of student-athletes influenced his firing by the state higher board of education, it undoubtedly played a role.
Monke is the sports editor of The Dickinson Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at http://monke.areavoices.com.