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St. John's is forced to suspend Barkley; School, NCAA differ on rule interpretation


NEW YORK -- St. John's University benched star point guard Erick Barkley for yesterday's game against Boston College for violating an NCAA rule, school officials said.

Coach Mike Jarvis and athletic director Ed Manetta wouldn't say what prompted the suspension. But they did say they were forced to discipline the fast-rising sophomore because the NCAA inaccurately interpreted a rule, quashing Barkley's rights in the process.

"You are guilty until proven innocent," Jarvis said after the Red Storm's 59-58 win over Boston College at Alumni Hall. Without their floor leader, the Red Storm needed a foul shot by Bootsy Thornton (Dunbar) in the final seconds to defeat the lowly Eagles.

St. John's immediately moved to have Barkley reinstated, and a ruling by the NCAA is expected as early as tomorrow. NCAA officials would not discuss the Barkley probe.

The team will play Providence in Rhode Island on Tuesday.

"This is not a communist country," Jarvis said during an angry news conference after the game. "There is no Gestapo here. Everyone should be given the rights that all our ancestors fought and died for."

The Daily News reported yesterday that an NCAA investigator spent several days on the St. John's campus last week, gathering information about the possible improper use of a sports-utility vehicle that one of the St. John's players has been driving.

"What can be construed as a simple exchange from one friend to another has been interpreted differently," Jarvis said.

Barkley attended the game and the news conference, but Jarvis forbade him from discussing the issue with reporters.

"I asked Erick to come to this and listen. That's what he's going to do," Jarvis said. "He won't answer questions."

Jarvis and Manetta said the university stands by Barkley. "It will be proven that Erick Barkley did nothing wrong," Jarvis said.

Barkley, 21, of Brooklyn, is considered one of the nation's top playmakers and a likely first-round pick in this year's NBA draft if he opts to leave school.

Pub Date: 2/06/00

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