Athletic misconduct allegations warrant investigation

by Beacon Staff • September 29, 2011

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Resigning men’s and women’s tennis coach John Nestel’s allegations of ethical misconduct.

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An independent inquiry is needed.

If true, the credible allegations of unethical behavior against Emerson’s Athletic Department are shameful.

Departing men’s and women’s tennis coach John Nestel has said that, in at least two matches in their 2010 season, the team participated in an illegal practice known as lineup stacking, a strategy wherein a tennis team splits its top doubles players in an effort to gain an unfair advantage.

Last season, the women’s team was commended by the Tennis Recruiting Network, a national publication, for boasting an impressive lineup, including Great Northeastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year Savannah Mosser and Rookie of the Year Lacey Russell.

Previous coach Mason Astley confirmed to the Beacon that Mosser and Russell occupied the number one and number two positions on the team, respectively. Despite that, game records indicate they competed alongside different doubles partners. Emerson’s website even reported, “To strengthen Emerson’s doubles play, Astley split Russell and Mosser after the first four matches.”

This is a clear violation of NCAA Division III rules, which explicitly state the practice is illegal.

While Nestel comes from a unique position of insight into the inner workings of the women’s tennis team, his comments to this newspaper have undeniably thrown his players under the bus. The unfiltered candor with which he divulged fleeting asides with his subordinates is an arguable breach of the relationship between player and coach. Revealing misconduct is essential to keeping Emerson athletics honest, but Nestel has chosen to be indiscreet in his efforts to do so.

Nestel named names, going on the record alleging statements by specific Emerson students — players who should be free to speak for themselves.

Due to a media arrangement with the Athletics Department, speaking for themselves is not so simple. The Beacon is required to receive approval before communicating with specific players — presenting the opportunity for indirect or filtered responses after college officials have cleared athletes for comment. In this case, Nestel and Astley’s former players declined to speak out on the allegations.

The full details of Nestel’s departure have yet to come to light. However, the accusations following the coach’s sudden resignation may have exposed a serious question about the level of sportsmanship Emerson’s Athletic Department enforces.

As Emerson’s tennis program rebounds from a change in leadership, we call on the college to order an independent investigation into the alleged misconduct. The college must emphasize that on the court, maintaining integrity is its top priority.