Campus

Arbitrator Rejects Former Swim Coach’s Lawsuit Against CSI

Ruling Also Points Finger at the College

By Clifford Michel

 

An arbitrator has ruled to uphold the November 2011 firing of Oleg Soloviev, a former College of Staten Island swim coach, and has once again rejected his $25 million lawsuit against the College.

The arbitrator cited the fact that the coach promised Russian student-athletes housing and jobs, including ones as lifeguards before entering entered the United States.

“The employer had just cause for termination,” wrote Deborah M. Gaines, the arbitrator, in late August.

“The recorded evidence establishes [Soloviev] had a long tenure with the college and an established history of dedication to his duties and athletes,” Gaines wrote. “However, none of these factors can provide sufficient mitigating circumstances, given the magnitude of his dishonesty and misconduct in this case.”

In Gaines’ recent ruling she put a portion of the blame on CSI for “[failing] to exercise enough oversight” on Soloviev.

A CSI spokesperson contended that the college acted to the best of its ability in the handling of Soloviev and said that administration is content with the arbitrator’s ruling.

“The college has always maintained that it has acted in a lawful and just manner, and in the interest of safety for our students and our community members, in regards to this matter,” Kenneth Bach, CSI’s spokesperson, told the Staten Island Advance in a statement. “We are pleased that the final resolution has been reached in support of our position.”

Soloviev told the Advance that he will, once again, appeal the decision.

Soloviev’s misconduct came to light when CSI President William Fritz alerted the campus community via a December 2013 letter stating that the NCAA was looking into possible violations to the organization’s bylaws.

Penalties from the NCAA included a four-year probation placed on CSI and a two-year postseason ban for the Men’s swimming team.

A few months after the NCAA announced penalties against CSI for Soloviev’s actions, the former coach filed a $25 million lawsuit against CSI, alleging that that his ethnicity, age, and sex were the reason for his termination.

Soloviev claimed that his replacement received almost double the pay he received when he was first hired and that women workers also received higher starting salaries.

A Brooklyn federal judge, William F. Kuntz II, dismissed the lawsuit last May, saying that the coach failed to back up any of his claims with coherent evidence.

“Mr. Soloviev has shown no connection between his termination and his gender, race or national origin,” Kuntz wrote in his ruling. “Rather than show discriminatory intent, the sequence of events leading to Mr. Soloviev’s discharge indicates that his termination was the product of his actions rather than his race, gender, or national origin.”

Soloviev, who was director of aquatics since 1995, was once highly regarded in the CSI Athletics Department. Soloviev brought the Dolphins to seven CUNYAC titles, earned the honor of CUNY Coach of the Year five times, and brought CSI its first NCAA Division III championship—which was stripped away due to penalties from the NCAA.

The NCAA’s official Notice of Allegations in 2013 rocked CSI Athletics to its core.

The NCAA found that “the Administration never required him to give an accounting of his recruitment activities.” The NCAA also discovered that the coach was recruiting players both electronically and while vacationing abroad.

The association also ruled that CSI indirectly provided funds for the recruited students by lowering swimlane rates at a private swim club.

Since the Notice of Allegation, Athletics has been placed under direct supervision of the President’s Office and President Fritz created a “compliance team.” The team consists of various members of CSI Administration, faculty members, a student representative, and the Athletic Director.

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