Oct. 17, 2011
Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli has been suspended for the first six games of the upcoming basketball season for accepting a meal and hotel room from a Vanderbilt University alumnus, a violation of NCAA rules.
The incident was uncovered by an internal Vanderbilt compliance review and self-reported immediately to the Southeastern Conference and NCAA in early August. The ruling was finalized Monday by the NCAA.
The suspension will include the Commodores' first six regular season games beginning with Oregon Nov. 11 and extending through the team's Nov. 25 game with Monmouth. He regains his eligibility Nov. 28 against Xavier. Ezeli will be allowed to participate in the team's exhibition game against Xavier (La.) on Nov. 7.
The improper benefits stemmed from a chance encounter earlier this summer with an out-of-town alumnus while on a weekend trip to visit friends. The NCAA prohibits any benefit extended to a student-athlete that is not readily extended to all students by boosters of the school's athletic program, which includes by definition its alumni.
"I am very sorry and would never want to jeopardize my college career over such a petty thing as a meal or a hotel room," Ezeli said. "I would have been able to afford those things myself. I have always tried to do the right thing; I should have known better and am embarrassed that my mistake could affect my team."
"Festus Ezeli is a good, honest student-athlete that accepted an act of kindness from a Vanderbilt alum and now faces the consequences," Vice Chancellor David Williams says. "We have a very good compliance education process in place and this incident shows how easily someone can fall astray, even with the best intentions. We discovered this matter, reported it promptly and cooperated fully with the NCAA and its process and will abide by its conclusion."
"All of us are disappointed, especially Festus," Coach Kevin Stallings said. "He is always striving to do the right thing and cares a lot about the university, our program and certainly his teammates. He is allowed to practice and play in our exhibition game and we look forward to his return Nov. 28. Neither Festus nor I will be making any further comments on this matter and will direct all questions to Vice Chancellor David Williams."