Wednesday, November 25, 2015

College basketball team forfeits game after coach gets fired

A Division III basketball team forfeited a conference game right before tip-off to protest the firing of its coach Tuesday night. Players from William Paterson in Wayne, N.J., dressed and warmed up before collectively walking off the court as the game was about to begin.

The forfeit against Ramapo College was a show support for longtime coach Jose Rebimbas, who was in his 21st season.

Rebimbas, the school’s leader in coaching wins with 384, declined comment on Wednesday, saying he would comment publicly at a later date. He said on Facebook on Sunday that he was fired because of a misunderstanding over facility rental fees for a camp he runs.

“The university has unfairly and illegally taken my right to coach and mentor the student-athletes I love,” Rebimbas said. “I am prepared to fight the actions of William Paterson University and restore my good name and that of the program.”

Athletic director Sabrina Grant and athletic spokeswoman Heather Brocious did not immediately return calls seeking comment from The Associated Press. The school is closed because of the Thanksgiving holiday.

“We came out on the floor, ready to go and it looked like they were ready to go,” said Ramapo coach Chuck McBreen said. “We came back to the bench to get ready for the introductions and they took off their shooting shirts, threw them on the floor and walked off the court.”

McBreen said his team packed up its belongings and left the gym.

“I left there with a numb feeling, like I was in shock,” McBreen said. “I never saw this coming.”

Terry Small, commissioner of the New Jersey Athletic Conference, said he’s not sure how the conference will proceed. He said he contacted the NCAA and the association doesn’t acknowledge forfeits.

“It’s uncharted territory,” Small said. “I know we do have a conference policy towards forfeits, but nothing like this.”

According to the Asbury Park Press, a person familiar with the dispute said that Rebimbas was fired after a loss Saturday night to Brooklyn College because he did not promptly pay the university fees pledged by high schools for the camp. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the situation.

The Pioneers went 21-8 last season, making their ninth trip to the NCAA Division III Tournament under Rebimbas. The Pioneers have won 20 games or more nine times in Rebimbas’ tenure and won the NJAC championship six times. They advanced to the NCAA Division III Final Four in 1999 and 2001 and advanced to the title game in 2001.

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