About Findlay: The Oilers are a perennial Division II power and have given Dayton some trouble in the past. They went 23-7 last season and won the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament title. They return several key players, including all-conference wing Greg Kahlig, and are ranked third in a D-II preseason poll.
The parents of former University of Dayton center Matt Kavanaugh issued a statement to the Dayton Daily News on Thursday saying they strongly disagree with the school’s decision to suspend the player for the academic year.
Kavanaugh was stripped of his scholarship and won’t be able to attend classes or campus functions at least until May 2013 after being found in violation of the university’s standards of behavior and code of conduct. The 6-foot-10, 250-pound senior from Centerville was a starter for the Flyers last season, averaging nine points and about six rebounds.
“We are deeply disappointed by the University of Dayton’s decision to suspend Matthew for the remainder of this academic year and strongly maintain that he did not violate the University’s Standards of Behavior and Code of Conduct,” the statement from John and Susan Kavanaugh said.
“We would like to thank Coach (Archie) Miller and the entire coaching staff and athletic department for their support throughout this process and for the opportunities they have provided to Matthew. We wish the Flyers the best for success in the upcoming season. Our family is supporting Matthew as he looks to the future. Beyond that, this is a private family matter and the family has no further comment.”
UD spokesperson Teri Rizvi wouldn’t divulge the reasons behind the suspension, although she did say the university considers the matter closed and that Kavanaugh won’t be facing any criminal charges.
Asked how a student could be suspended for a year when he hasn’t been charged with a crime, she said: “We have a code of conduct that reflects expectations for behavior for students. … There’s a big difference between the criminal system and the administrative process the university would take. I really can’t talk specifically about the violations because of privacy issues. But there’s a difference between those two processes.”
After hearing about the family statement, she said the university came to its decision on Kavanaugh after a “thorough” investigation. The player was dismissed after going through a hearing and then an appeals process.
Miller and Athletic Director Tim Wabler met with Kavanaugh and his family Wednesday after the player learned of his suspension. The coach called it “a tough day.”
The Flyers are down to 10 scholarship players, three below the maximum, and were counting on major contributions from Kavanaugh. The search for his replacement will begin in an exhibiton game against Findlay at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Miller said the player most likely to make a significant jump is junior wing Devin Oliver, who averaged about five points and five rebounds last season and became a starter after senior forward Josh Benson underwent season-ending knee surgery in January.
“Devin has a chance to have a huge role for us,” Miller said. “I don’t necessarily know — although it would be great — if it will be offensive production. But I think he’s very versatile right now and I look forward to watching him grow.
“He’s confident and practicing well every day. I see him becoming a different player for us.”
Freshmen forwards Jalen Robinson and Devon Scott can expect to get meaningful minutes inside. Back-up sophomore center Alex Gavrilovic, who is sidelined with mononucleosis, also is a candidate to take over for Kavanaugh.
“I look at all of our players, and they all can have a role,” Miller said. “Any time you feel like you can have a role, you have confidence because that wall you think you can never break through isn’t there anymore.”
Kavanaugh’s big-body presence will be missed as well as his soft touch. He shot 80.7 percent on free throws and 54.6 from the field.
Miller isn’t sure who ultimately will emerge as the starter at the 5 spot.
“The combination of players has to work for us. We have to have some chemistry,” he said. “It’s up for grabs.
“I think everyone understands — even (point guard) Kevin Dillard — they have to be better. We don’t have much margin for error. We never do.”
Kavanaugh was named captain this season along with Dillard and Benson, and Miller expects the latter two to pick up more of the leadership duties.
“We do have two outstanding seniors in Josh and Kevin who now take on a big, big burden in terms of giving our younger guys those (determined) faces they need to see every day,” Miller said. “They’ll also need to hear them and talk to them. But I’ll say this: every team has a different group of characters, and you’ll be surprised who emerges when things start to go not as well as you want.”