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Cohane v. Greiner

March 10, 2006

TIMOTHY M. COHANE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WILLIAM R. GREINER, DENNIS BLACK, ROBERT ARKEILPANE, WILLIAM MAHER, ERIC EISENBERG, MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE, AND ROBERT FOURNIER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny United States District Judge

DECISION & ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

In this case, Plaintiff Timothy Cohane, a former basketball coach at the State University of New York at Buffalo ("SUNY Buffalo"), alleges that Defendants violated his right to due process by proffering fraudulent testimony and withholding exculpatory evidence from the NCAA. As a result, Plaintiff alleges, the NCAA banned him from coaching for four years and destroyed his reputation and career. Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Currently before this Court is the SUNY Defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

The following facts, which are alleged in the Complaint, are assumed true for purposes of the instant motion. Cohane served as head coach of the men's intercollegiate National Collegiate Athletic Association ("NCAA") Division I basketball team at SUNY Buffalo from 1993 through December 3, 1999. (Am. Compl., ¶ 5). After SUNY Buffalo hired Cohane as the head coach of its men's basketball team in 1993, the team progressed from an NCAA team without a league, to the East Coast Conference, and finally to the Mid American Conference ("the MAC"). (Am. Compl., ¶ 30). The MAC, one of 34 conferences within the NCAA, regulates and manages the men's basketball program at SUNY Buffalo. (Am. Compl., ¶¶ 13, 30).

In 1998, Defendant Robert Arkeilpane assumed the position as SUNY's Director of Athletics. (Am. Compl., ¶ 31). After Cohane publicly protested the removal of a fellow coach that year, Arkeilpane became consumed with having Cohane fired. (Am. Compl., ¶¶ 32, 33, 42). Despite Arkeilpane's obvious bias against Cohane, on January 29, 1999, SUNY Buffalo approved an extension of Cohane's contract through April 13, 2002. (Am. Compl., ¶ 39). Arkeilpane refused Cohane's request to make a public announcement of the extension, as was customary, and he instructed a sports writer from the Buffalo News not to print the news that Cohane's contract had been extended. (Am. Compl., ¶¶ 42, 48). Thereafter, Arkeilpane took steps to "make Cohane sweat," by freezing the men's basketball recruiting budget, unilaterally changing scheduled games, improperly authorizing payment of medical bills for a student athlete, and by requiring Cohane to report to SUNY's Assistant Athletic Director Bill Maher. (Am. Compl, ¶¶ 43-49).

Arkeilpane enjoyed a pre-existing friendship and business relationship with Rob Fournier, the then-Director of Compliance for the MAC. (Am. Compl., ¶ 52). On August 4, 1999, without notice to Cohane, Arkeilpane wrote a letter to the MAC on behalf of SUNY Buffalo, in which he requested Fournier's assistance resolving "alleged violations by our men's basketball team program . . . ." (Am. Compl., ¶ 62). Fournier wrote a letter to the NCAA dated August 9, 1999, wherein he confirmed that he had called the NCAA on August 3, 1999, concerning an alleged infraction and "documentation offered by the school." (Am Compl., ¶ 64). Specifically, the letter stated as follows:

"As a consequence of the sensitive personal and private issues to be protected, the Conference will undertake this process in the coming weeks by submitting affidavits, interviewing affected parties, and insuring due process . . . . Toward that end, we will utilize when necessary the full services and cooperation of personnel at the University at Buffalo including New York State legal counsel."

(Am. Compl., ¶ 66).

From August 1999 through February 9, 2001, the MAC fully utilized the services of SUNY personnel, including those of Arkeilpane, Maher, Eric "Rock" Eisenberg, the assistant men's basketball coach, SUNY President William Greiner, and Vice President Dennis Black, Esq. (collectively "the SUNY Defendants"). (Am. Compl., ¶¶ 6, 7, 10 & 67). According to Cohane, the SUNY Defendants authorized, assisted and conspired with Fournier to violate his due process rights as well as the protocols and rules promulgated by the NCAA and MAC. (Am Compl., ¶ 68). Specifically, with the consent of the SUNY Defendants, Fournier conducted interviews without tape recording them, as required, prepared affidavits for adverse witnesses, intimidated witnesses into giving damaging testimony against Cohane, misrepresented himself to potential witnesses by claiming that he was an attorney or an employee of SUNY Buffalo, and refused Cohane's request for information regarding the nature of charges against him or documentation of his alleged infractions. (Am. Compl., ¶¶ 69, 70, 73, 74, 75, 77, 78).

In September of 1999, Arkeilpane interviewed the student athletes on the SUNY Buffalo basketball team, many of whom made statements which exonerated Cohane of violating NCAA rules and regulations. (Am. Compl., ¶ 79-80). From September 1999 through January 2000, Arkeilpane, Maher and Fournier threatened student athletes with loss of their scholarships and NCAA eligibility, as well as forfeiture of their degrees, to compel them to change their testimony and sign false affidavits implicating Cohane. (Am. Compl., ¶¶ 81-84). At all times, the sum and substance of the students' taped statements and the existence of the conflicting affidavits were intentionally withheld from Cohane. (Am. Compl., ¶¶ 80, 84).

During the investigation, Eisenberg, the assistant coach, began soliciting student athletes and members of Cohane's coaching staff to support him in his bid to become the "next head coach." (Am Compl., ¶ 89). In November 1999, Eisenberg submitted to Maher a copy of scouting notes, which Defendants falsely claimed were distributed to the basketball team in violation of NCAA regulations. (Am Compl., ¶¶ 100-01).

On November 16, 1999, the MAC issued a draft report, which set forth a list of allegations against Cohane but omitted exculpatory information. (Am Compl., ¶ 99). Despite numerous requests from Cohane, the SUNY Defendants never provided him with affidavits supporting the draft report. (Am Compl., ¶¶ 102-03, 110). On December 1, 1999, Greiner and Arkeilpane wrote to Fournier and the MAC that SUNY Buffalo "accept[ed] the report (Fournier's report) and acknowledg[ed] the findings therein." (Am Compl., ¶ 108). That same day, Greiner dispatched a uniformed police officer to ...


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