Augusta University men’s basketball coach suspended for NCAA violations, assistant coach fired


(WJBF) – The Augusta University (AU) men’s basketball team will start the season without head coach, Dip Metress on the sidelines while he serves the remainder of a six week unpaid suspension for NCAA violations. Metress is suspended for the first five games of the season for his role in a former Jaguars’ assistant coach taking a online test for a player in March of 2021. O’Neal Armstrong, the second-year assistant coach cited in the violations, was fired from AU on August 30, 2021. The player in question is no longer listed on the AU men’s basketball team roster. WJBF has chosen not to reveal his identity.

The AU men’s basketball program faces other consequences from the violations. Nine wins from the 2020-21 basketball season will be vacated. The 10 scholarships allowed by the NCAA will be reduced to nine beginning fall 2022. No Augusta University Presidential Exception admissions will be granted for men’s basketball beginning fall 2022. Metress will have an official letter of reprimand placed in his employment file.

Former AU men’s basketball assistant coach O’Neal Armstrong was fired on August 30, 2021 for taking an online test for a player on March 6, 2021.

An open records request from WJBF to AU reveals details on the investigation into the violations. Metress provided inappropriate academic assistance to a student athlete, telling investigators he spent at least an hour each morning before class and sometimes before and after basketball practices, working with a student athlete on discussion questions related schoolwork.

Metress obtained access to basketball players’ emails and online learning accounts. He told investigators he had access to players’ emails and online learning accounts and saved them as bookmarks on his computer so he could keep tabs on their class assignments, upcoming exams, papers due and more. AU cited Metress for violating AU Work Rules by assuming academic responsibilities outside of the scope of his job description. Metress also inappropriately assisted a student athlete with academic work to the point of actually completing the student athlete’s work because the student athlete was incapable of completing the work.

Metress was also found guilty of applying tacit coercion to his former assistant coach to ensure he did “whatever necessary” to assist the student athlete to complete and pass his academic work. The AU investigation states Metress indicated he did not ask the assistant coach to pick up the student and escort him to his test in Christenberry Fieldhouse. However, on March 9, 2021, Metress indicated he knew his assistant coach was in the room with the student athlete on that Saturday because the student athlete needed to get the test done. AU monitoring systems showed Metress communicated with the student athlete during the test in reference to Metress working on a discussion question for the student athlete.

On July 14, 2021 Metress was officially notified of his suspension, which began July 15, 2021 with an end date of August 13, 2021. The suspension was subsequently extended to end on August 27, 2021. On August 27, 2021 Metress was notified that based on the results of the investigation he would receive a six-week unpaid suspension and final warning. According to the AU report, while Metress has served six weeks of the suspension so far, only five weeks had been unpaid however. Therefore, Metress must serve an additional suspension of two scrimmage/exhibition games and the first three games of the regular season. The additional suspension serves as the additional one week of unpaid leave towards the initial suspension.

Armstrong was notified of his suspension on July 14, 2021 pending investigation of NCAA violations. The suspension began on July 15, 2021 with an end date of August 13, 2021. His suspension was subsequently extended to August 27, 2021. Based on the findings of the investigation, Armstrong was terminated effective immediately on August 30, 2021.

The specific reasons for Armstrong’s firing, according to AU documents, involve his role in academic assistance to a men’s basketball player. On June 17, 2021 Armstrong met with the NCAA regarding allegations of academic assistance and was not forthcoming with NCAA investigators. The NCAA offered Armstrong another opportunity to meet with their investigators with the option to bring an attorney, which he declined. AU cites the failure to cooperate with the governing body of the Augusta University Athletics program as inappropriate and unacceptable as an AU assistant coach.

On July 28, 2021 Armstrong met with AU HR Employee Relations investigators to determine the academic assistance he provided to the player in question. The investigators determined, by Armstrong’s own admission, that he escorted the student athlete to Christenberry Fieldhouse on March 6, 2021 where he took an online test for a Criminal Justice 3229 course. Armstrong admitted to being present while the player took the test, but denied answering test questions for the player. AU determined that, based on video and transcript from the test, it is reasonable to believe Armstrong did indeed assist with answering test questions. AU documents state that the Respondus monitor system notes that the test questions were answered while the student athlete’s hands were in view – supporting the assumption that someone other than the student athlete answered the test questions. AU documents state that while Armstrong admitted to being in the room, he was dishonest about the level of assistance provided to the student athlete and it is reasonable to believe he was the one answering the test questions for the student athlete.

The Augusta Jaguars are scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games at Barton College on November 12 and November 13. The Jags open the regular season at Fayetteville State University on Saturday, November 20, followed by games against Benedict College and Bowie State the next week. According to the five-game suspension, Metress would be allowed back on the sideline for the home game against Claflin on Thursday, December 2, 2021.

As a result of the investigations, Metress is not allowed to have direct contact with a professor, instructor or academic advisor related to a student athlete. He must also attend the NCAA Regional Rules Seminar. AU documents also state that Metress has been warned that future Augusta University work rule violations, NCAA rules infractions or other problems with his performance or behavior will result in further action, up to and including immediate discharge.

Below are the documents obtained by WJBF in regards to the AU and NCAA investigations through an Open Records Request:

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