St. Francis College Brooklyn women’s basketball head coach Linda Cimino was suspended for three games after engaging in impermissible contact with Binghamton student-athletes, the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions announced on Dec. 22. The committee released a negotiated resolution outlining the prohibited contact and inducements provided by the former BU head coach to three of her former players after leaving for St. Francis.
In addition to Cimino’s suspension, the St. Francis women’s basketball program was placed on probation for two years, fined $5,000 and docked one scholarship for next season, among other temporary recruiting penalties.
While the resolution does not specifically name Binghamton as Cimino’s former institution in question, it describes it as a Division I institution, and BU is the only other Division I institution that she has coached at in her career. The identities of the three players were not revealed in the report.
After spending four seasons as Binghamton’s head coach, Cimino resigned from her position on May 21, 2018 to accept the St. Francis job. Just two weeks later, she initiated contact with two of her former players while traveling, prior to officially starting her position at St. Francis. The trip was described in the resolution as a vacation.
On June 2, 2018, she initiated contact with a student-athlete in the athlete’s hometown of Chicago, Illinois, and eventually purchased lunch for the athlete and her father. The next day, while on the same trip, Cimino traveled to another student-athlete’s hometown of Midland, Michigan. She initiated contact and purchased dinner for the student-athlete and her friend.
A few months later, early on in the fall 2018 semester, Cimino once again had impermissible contact with her former players. On Sept. 1, 2018, the student-athlete Cimino had seen in Chicago, along with another one of Cimino’s former players, traveled to Brooklyn, New York to attend the 2018 Brooklyn Labor Day Parade. In the evening after the parade, the pair met with Cimino, where she provided an impermissible inducement by paying for their dinner.
The following week, on Sept. 9, 2018, Cimino and one of her assistants visited her former institution’s campus while on a recruiting trip. They attended a women’s soccer game where they had impermissible contact with the student-athlete Cimino had previously purchased dinner for in Michigan. According to the resolution, a then-assistant director of athletics at Cimino’s former institution was present during the brief contact.
The Binghamton athletics department and Patrick Elliott, director of athletics, declined to comment on the negotiated resolution or the extent of that exchange on campus, with a spokesperson stating that the department does not comment on NCAA investigations or the business of another institution.
In December, the three aforementioned student-athletes initiated contact with Cimino and arranged a trip to St. Francis Brooklyn’s campus where they visited the institution’s athletics facilities and offices. While on campus, they also had impermissible contact with Irma Garcia, the St. Francis director of athletics, after being introduced by Cimino.
In February 2019, the trio once again visited with Cimino in Brooklyn while one athlete was in New York City for a hair appointment, attending a St. Francis men’s basketball game. Both visits were initiated by the student-athletes, however, Cimino purchased meals for the three athletes and two of them stayed at her house on both trips.
During the second trip, the student-athletes Cimino had previously seen in Chicago and Michigan attended a team scouting video meeting on St. Francis’ campus and had impermissible contact with two of Cimino’s assistant coaches.
In response to NCAA’s issuance of the negotiated resolution, the St. Francis athletics department released a statement, describing the infractions as “unintentional, limited and technical violations.”
“The violations resulted from communication by the head coach with student-athletes she previously coached at another institution,” the statement read. “The NCAA recognized that neither the head coach nor anyone associated with St. Francis College actually tried to recruit the student-athletes to transfer to the college. In fact, all of the student-athletes remained at the other institution.”
The statement continued to clarify that neither Cimino nor the St. Francis program have ever been involved in an infractions case previously, and that the department will comply with the penalties agreed upon with the NCAA. A spokesperson for St. Francis reiterated via email that there was never any intention to recruit student-athletes from the other institution.
None of three student-athletes transferred to St. Francis before their collegiate eligibility expired, but one of the three eventually became a graduate assistant coach at the institution under Cimino.
In total, between May 24, 2018 and August 22, 2019, Cimino initiated at least four impermissible phone calls and over 249 impermissible text messages with the three student-athletes in addition to the aforementioned in-person visits. In her interview with the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions, Cimino explained that she did not believe her actions were impermissible due to her “close” preexisting relationship with the three student-athletes, which was noted in the resolution.
“[Cimino] described and the student-athletes interviewed confirmed that her approach to coaching included developing a close relationship with her student-athletes, which transcended her leaving her prior institution,” the resolution stated. “She also believed the legislation prohibiting contact with the women’s basketball student-athletes was based solely on whether the student-athlete intended to transfer. As a result, the head women’s basketball coach did not attempt to conceal her contact with the student-athletes and was, in fact, forthcoming once notified by the enforcement staff and learning that she had violated rules.”
With the St. Francis women’s basketball team currently in a three-week break from gameplay, Cimino will presumably begin her suspension on Thursday, Jan. 7 when the Terriers take on Mount St. Mary’s.