Mark Amatucci has had it with the administration at Anne Arundel Community College and says he's "tired of sitting back and not saying anything about what's going on."
The third-year Pioneers head basketball coach and assistant athletic director -- who also serves as an academic monitor for student-athletes -- is disgusted with the overallsituation at the Arnold campus.
It bothers him that the negative sniping at him and Athletic Director Buddy Beardmore continues, easily overshadowing the overall excellent jobs they have done.
In my opinion, too much attention has been paid to their problems and not enough to all the good they have done in building an overall top-notch program.
"I've never had to put up with anything like this," said Amatucci.
His dismay stems from the never-ending battle with members of the administration and thephysical education department. And if the right opportunity comes along, he probably is gone.
A lot of state Division I schools are down in the win column, and it would not be surprising to see a few coaching changes.
Amatucci, who was head coach at Loyola College in Baltimore before coming to Anne Arundel, feels as if it's he and Beardmore against the rest of the school.
"I've never seen anything like this continuing circus around here, and I'm getting very sensitive about my integrity and professionalism constantly being questioned," said Amatucci, after learning that AACC president Thomas Florestano told a reporter that "six basketball players have been dismissed for being academically ineligible."
As a matter of fact, only three were removed from the team for academic ineligibility last Thursday whenfall semester grades were released. The three players, two of whom were starters, did not meet the National JuCo Athletic Association requirements of at least a 1.75 grade-point average and a passing grade in 12 credit hours worth of courses.
Just before the season started, Amatucci cut three players who weren't meeting academic and athletic standards, and apparently that is where Florestano came up with the number six.
That infuriated Amatucci on Monday. In his office after a practice, the Pioneers' coach expressed his disappointment in the relentless stream of negative rumors that trail him and Beardmore.
"There's another example of unsubstantiated rumors being told to you guys (the media)," said Amatucci. "I'm very annoyed with the overall situation here. People around here wonder why the media has a field day with our school. There's another example why."
Florestano said, "I think Mark is feeling very defensive, but will just have to learn to live with it because he's a high-profile guy.
"The basketball program will constantly be watched just like the one at the University of Maryland. Our athletic department is always going to be a source of tension. It's always on the front burner."
Florestano saidthe athletic program at Anne Arundel will continue to be closely watched so as to avoid any more problems.
The new dean of students, Augustine Pounds, who succeeded the late Anthony Pappas, has made a report on the state of the intercollegiate sports program mandatory every three months.
As for Amatucci feeling as if his integrity is being questioned, Florestano said, "That's in the eyes of the beholder.His integrity and professionalism is being questioned no less than that of anyone else. The basketball team is on probation, you know."
Amatucci has led the hoop team to two straight 20-win seasons, including a berth in a regional tournament last year. An honest mistake on his part last year resulted in a player being declared academicallyineligible, the forfeiture of a couple of games and a subsequent oneyear's probation from the NJCAA.
Anne Arundel is off to a 9-3 start this season, but because of the probation is banned from postseason play.
Couple that with the women's soccer team also being placedon one-year probation for playing two ineligible players in 1989 and1990 by Coach Mike Miles, who later resigned, and the Pioneers' athletic department had two black eyes to start this year.
Those violations were the result of a seven-month investigation that embarrassedthe school and athletic department. The finger was pointed at Amatucci and Beardmore, and they became the scapegoats despite their full cooperation with the NJCAA.
There is no question that the two high-profile men have more than their share of haters at Anne Arundel. In times of crisis, the haters crawl out of the woodwork and throw fuel on the fire -- if they didn't help start it.
It was discovered during an internal investigation that a faculty member had initiated theinvestigation into Amatucci's hoops program by sending transcripts without the students' permission to the NJCAA.
That was just another example of someone from the old athletic department regime attempting to smear Beardmore and Amatucci.